Ashtabula man saves grandson's life, loses own in ocean riptide

ASHTABULA, Ohio - Paul Demshar's life may be seen as filled with tragedy by some, but by many accounts from family members and friends, he never complained about tragedy for a second; taking note of life's blessings were his strong suit.

Demshar was way too busy working at his Ashtabula CPA firm to waste time with past worries. When he wasn't working, he was helping others he perceived as needing a hand. With a huge, giving heart, he always sought them out each day.

That huge heart and a weakened pair of rotator cuffs from his former baseball days cost Demshar his life last Wednesday just off of a Jacksonville, Florida beach.

While swimming in the surf, a sudden ocean riptide scared his 10-year-old grandson Garrett. Paul Demshar rushed to his aid.

Fighting the tide with the help of good Samaritans, Demshar was able to get Garrett to safety on the beach, but lost his ability to fight the riptide himself. A surfer pushed his board to Demshar's side, brought him to shore and performed CPR until paramedic help arrived.

Flown to nearby University of Florida Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, doctors were unable to revive him. He was later pronounced dead. Official cause of death has not been determined.

Losing his parents while still in Geneva High School, Demshar found his stride at Canton's Malone College. He graduated in 1972 and he soon found himself working for the IRS. Once asked to carry a gun during his duties there, he eventually moved to CPA employment at Ernst & Ernst, not enjoying possibly dangerous work as an IRS agent.

For the last 29 years, he had developed a strong client following at his own firm, Paul Demshar CPA, Inc. Known as an incredibly hard worker, he also was best known for his kind heart.

"He always pushed himself to what he was when his life ended," said his wife of 43 years in August, Jennifer Demshar. "Caring and loving. Children, blessed by children. He was very, very tender-hearted. He was a crier, and it embarrassed him. And we'd tell him not to be embarrassed by it, that's your true heart, your feelings."

Demshar's legacy of giving in Ashtabula is not likely be forgotten, nor will his zest for his Christian faith.

"I could talk about how kind he was, how giving, how loving. That he was all those things because he knew God gave it to him," said Demshar's Rebekah Zelenka, wife of former Jacksonville Jaguars long-snapper, Joe Zelenka. "He gave of himself because Christ died for him. That was my dad."

Demshar's son, Matthew, said his father had been such an inspiration of hard work that Garrett modeled himself after Paul. Garrett often wished for a suit and tie as a gift at Christmas to, "be like "Papa."

Services will be held Thursday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday at 11 a.m. at Gateway Church on Austinburg Road in Ashtabula.

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