William Butler Yeats said, "There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met."
At 94 years of age, "It's been a wonderful life," said Paul Dubaj, who has much to say - about growing up as one of nine siblings during the Great Depression, about 65 years spent married to the love of his life, and about the changes he has seen during his more than nine decades. Fortunately, Dubaj has many, many friends with whom to share.
Born and raised in Campbell, Dubaj described himself as the first young man in his neighborhood to be drafted, meeting his wife on the eastern shore of Virginia while stationed at Fort Custis.
Photo by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Surrounding himself with several of his friends, Paul Dubaj (pictured front, center), stands in the comfort of his friendly home away from home at Dunkin Donuts of Boardman, where he spends mornings Monday through Friday, sharing his own brand of affable, yet genuine camaraderie with all who are fortunate to cross paths with him. Pictured with Dubaj are: Joseph Zarlengo, Justine Welling, James Preston, Gwendolyn Jones, Yusafa Evans, Tiffany Berarducci, Anna Bertin, Natalie Byers, and Bill Sabo.
Sharing that it was during a weekend tag dance at the fort that he spotted her, and, admitting to being both bashful and not much of a dancer, Dubaj said he told his friend, "Boy, I'd sure like to dance with her." Fate would step in when Dubaj's friend "tagged" her on his behalf, leaving him no choice but to join her on the dance floor.
"Oh, she was wonderful," he said of the woman who was to follow him from base to base, marrying him because, as he said, they both knew he would be going overseas and they didn't want to lose one another. And so, on the front porch swing of her parents' home, with his hands shaking, Dubaj said they discussed their plans with her parents, who offered their blessing. Calling her the most wonderful thing that ever happened to him, he and Marjorie were married in 1944.
Sharing his past somewhat chronologically, "It was a luxury liner," of its time, said Dubaj of the ship on which he left New York for World War II, going on to recall seeing the White Cliffs of Dover, and traveling in convoy to Germany.
"About that time, Hitler was already on the run," he said, adding, "We were fortunate." During his 11 months overseas, Dubaj said, "We thanked the Lord we didn't have to see any action."
Following his discharge, Dubaj returned to Youngstown with his wife Marjorie, rented an apartment and, having been guaranteed a job, he found work at Boardman Supply, where he remained for 38 years until his retirement.
Together, Dubaj and his wife, who passed on just a few years ago, raised two children, their late son, Paul, and Robby, with whom he makes his home, along with one of his two granddaughters. Asked what has surprised him about his life, Dubaj said for one thing, when his granddaughters were born, he remembers thinking to himself, "I'll never live to see them graduate. I thank the good Lord for being so good to me."
These days, Dubaj arises long before the sun, but as soon as it begins to peek over the horizon, he is behind the wheel and on his way to Dunkin Donuts in Boardman, where he shares friendly banter with the staff who know him all too well. His chair of honor awaits and he sits with friends, chatting as they come and go, where each swing of the door is an opportunity to add a friend from the steady stream of visitors.
"I have so many friends," said Dubaj, his gratitude for them evident, adding of his numerous lady friends, "I get kisses from them. I don't know what they see in me."
Even while sharing his story in his home away from home at Dunkin Donuts, a young man entered. Noticing Dubaj's WWII Veteran embossed cap on the table, the stranger approached, offering to buy him a cup of coffee, one veteran to another.
Exchanging names, rankings, and a handshake, the two parted and Private First Class Ben Krabill, a stranger to Cpl. Paul Dubaj just a few moments earlier was now one more friend in a long, long list.