Albert the Fix-it Man

My father, Albert Ernest Paschkis, died at the end of September at the age of 94.

He was born in Berlin in 1928. His family left Germany in 1933 to escape the rising power of Hitler. They lived in Italy, Switzerland and Holland before coming to the USA in 1938. He spoke 5 languages when he was 10 years old!

He arrived in New York City and saw CARS everywhere. For the rest of his life he loved cars.

And motorcycles.

And bicycles.

He became a mechanical engineer. He had a long work life where he invented test and measurement devices and solved all kinds of problems. He built things and fixed things at work.

And he built things and fixed things at home – including the house we grew up in. He was often making things in his basement workshop, or fixing the cars. Everyone around knew they could turn to him for help.

In 2008 my sister Janet wrote a book about him called Albert the Fix-It Man.

In the book Albert is part of a community. He is never too busy or too tired to help anyone.

In the late 1980’s my father designed a studio/addition to my house. He came out and built it together with my husband, friends and with me. I sat in that studio and illustrated this book. I am sitting in it now writing this blog!

There were similarities and differences between real Albert and the character Albert. In the book Albert is short, bearded and almost roly-poly.

In real life he was tall and thin.

In the book he ended every day with a bowl of corn flakes.

That was true. He always saved the last sip of milk for the cat.

In the book he lives alone. In real life he was married to Marcia Iliff Paschkis for 72 years. They were a team. They had four children, a niece and nephew, and a large and loving extended family.

In real life Albert invented things as well as fixed them- including an elliptical bicycle gear, a long lasting lightbulb, and a tide clock that shows the tide and time on the clock face.

In the book he builds community through fixing things. Truly true. In his life he also built community by building and living in interracial housing, by counseling draft resisters during the Vietnam war, and by leading workshops in nonviolent problem solving at Graterford Prison.

The character Albert gets a cold and all of the many people that he has helped get together to help him. They bring him delicious food and he recovers.

In real life many of the people who knew him and loved him gathered together to remember him last week. There was a Quaker memorial service at Foulkeways where he lived, and where my mother still lives. Following the memorial there was a gathering at Gwynedd Friends Meeting where he had been a member for over 60 years. The family made delicious food – homemade soup, bread and cheese, gugelhopf and lebkuchen. Family and friends connected, drawn together by our love for him.

A few days after the memorial I returned to Gwynedd Friends Meeting. The room where we had gathered after the memorial had reverted to its usual function: a preschool. (I attended preschool there in 1961.) Gwynedd Friends School is a wonderful thriving place now. I read Albert the Fix-it Man to the current crop of bright eyed preschoolers.

I hope that I can live up to the ideals of generosity, kindness and inventiveness that my father quietly exemplified. And I hope that telling his story to kids will carry his spirit forward.

written by Julie Paschkis, November 2022

53 responses to “Albert the Fix-it Man

  1. Julie,
    You post was very moving and clearly shows your love for your father. I wish I could have known him as I’m sure we would have had good conversations. His engineering brain and compassion for people, not to mention his love of cats, all good traits! I hope you and your family find peace and comfort knowing he lived a good life and gave so much. —Stan

  2. What a remarkable human and what a beautiful remembrance, Julie. I’m so sorry you’ve lost your dad. I see a lot of him in you. Hugs. Tina


  3. So perfect, Julie. Much love–Cathy

  4. Beautiful remembrance. Thank you for honoring your father this way.

  5. Julie,
    This is the MOST wonderful tribute, so moving. so special. Thank you for
    sharing your very vital father with us. I knew he’d have to be special,
    having raised you!
    You were fortunate to have him as a father, and your gratitude shows.
    Just wondering: I’d love to find a tide clock but the link on the
    illustration isn’t working. Anywhere we can find Albert’s clocks?
    xo Kitty

    • Thank you Kitty! My brother Ted is continuing to make the Wonsqueak Tide and Time Clock. Ted’s email is
      Much to my father’s frustration the clock didn’t work well on Lopez Island – it had something to do with the shape of the shoreline. I don’t know if my brother has solved the problem.

  6. What a sweet and wonderful tribute to your dad, Julie. Losing parents (also relatively recent for me) made me feel untethered. Orphaned. This felt grounded and grounding, brimming with emotions that didn’t need to be stated. Thank you.

    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________

    • Thanks for your comment, Deb. Last weekend I read a story in The NY Times that quoted Saul Bellow who said that losing his father was like driving through a plate glass window that he hadn’t know was there, and that he spent the rest of his life picking up pieces.

  7. Christina Albetta

    I’m all teared up 😢. Such a wonderful tribute and beautifully told. It’s all so incredible… the book, the studio, the photos, the corn flakes!
    LOL Julie

  8. What a beautiful legacy your Dad has left for you. May his memory be a blessing.

  9. Julie, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like such a wonderful man and father. May his memory be a blessing. Anne


  10. julie — what a beautiful remembrance of your father’s life. i loved seeing the photos — i guess it’s not surprising that you look like him! and i agree with the last commenter — may his memory be a blessing to you and your family, too. seems like it already is. xox

    • Our parents live on in us! I feel like I met your father even though I never did – through your stories of him, and through reading his stories.

  11. So lovely, Julie! Your dad sounds amazing and appears to have lived so fully. I hope your mom is managing alright in the wake of this loss. My mom is 95 now too, and sadly with dementia that seems to erase her bit by bit each time I see her. I like to think of her, like your dad, as having created a richness that touched us all and certainly gave her joy every day. Its bittersweet to acknowledge both the life and the passing. In any case, I really enjoyed reading about him, and thank you!


    • One gift of my father’s passing was to get to revisit him at many different ages – to remember my young and vivid father as well as the somewhat frailer version of recent years. My mother is bereft, but also she is luckily in a good community with lots of friends and support.
      I have seen pictures of your mother that you posted on line. Her spirit shines through, and I see a resemblance to you.

  12. A beautiful tribute to your father. And I love Albert the Fix-It Man.

  13. Julie, thank you so much for this moving and generous tribute, and for sharing the blessings you clearly received from your remarkable father.

  14. Julie, deeply moved, tears in my eyes, and heart aching. So much beauty here is in your noticing and awareness of your wonderful father throughout his life. I know you got to bring it all together here, and I felt the same when I made long movies of my parents’ lives after they died. Your dad was so wonderful, Julie! I’m happy you all had him for so long, and sad we all have to die. My husband wrote in a song, para-phrasing, I wish we all lived on water and air, and all died together. Sending love.

    • Thank you, Wendy. I can imagine how wonderful it would be to make movies. Right after my father died the only thing I wanted to do was look at photographs of him from all the different times and places. I still do!

  15. I’m so sorry Julie. I had a wonderful Daddy too. I lost him when I was only 31, too young to realize that 72 was young too.

    • I’m sorry you lost your father when you were both so young. And it’s startling how quickly those years go by. 71 seems pretty young to me now too.

  16. Beautiful tribute to your father, and my deepest condolences on your loss.

  17. Oh Julie,
    My heart breaks for you. There is a poem I recall from childhood that went something like this –
    Life must go on, though good men die, Life must go on, I forget just why.
    I wish no I knew who wrote it, to me, it explains “loss.”
    Hugs to you, I’m glad you are seeking what you heart knows.
    Peace be with you.
    Pennie Hardwick

    • Your comment inspired me to google those words. Here is the poem

      by Edna St. Vincent Millay

      Listen, children:
      Your father is dead.
      From his old coats
      I’ll make you little jackets;
      I’ll make you little trousers
      From his old pants.
      There’ll be in his pockets
      Things he used to put there,
      Keys and pennies
      Covered with tobacco;
      Dan shall have the pennies
      To save in his bank;
      Anne shall have the keys
      To make a pretty noise with.
      Life must go on,
      And the dead must be forgotten;
      Life must go on,
      Though good men die;
      Anne, eat your breakfast;
      Dan, take your medicine;
      Life must go on;
      I forget just why

  18. What a lovely tribute to your dear father! I felt like I knew him after reading about his creativity, love and special connection to all around him. How special & thanks for sharing. And you are much like him, Julie. My heart is with you.

  19. What a wonderful tribute to your father. The world needs more like him. He still lives in your memory and the book your wrote about him

  20. What a wonderful tribute to a unique man. No wonder u r a lovely person having been raised & lived around him. So sorry for your loss but how glad u must be that he lived❣️
    Cathy Bonnell

  21. Julie, you’ve clearly lived up to his example—you are all of those things: generous, creative, inventive, full of love. You were so lucky to have him, and he, you. Sending you much love.

    • Thank you, Roberta. I remember we had dinner all together at your house one time. I’m glad you and Randy met him!

      • Roberta Brown Root

        I remember that evening well. Your mother brought me a little black and white cream pitcher which I love and use often. I’m so glad we got to meet both of your parents.

  22. How lucky you were to have had such a Gem for a Father
    I can truly see his influence in you
    much love to you

  23. I am sorry for you loss, and I am also happy that you felt his love and spirit for so many years. This is a lovely tribute to him. I think your book will help share his spirit with many more children.

  24. I would echo the lovely comments on your tribute to your father…his presence lives on. Your post inspired me to request the “Albert” book in through the Library and I just finished it at my desk. What a treasure to have from both his daughters.

  25. Thank you for sharing his life and legacy with history, storytelling and of course your amazing art. Such a fine man and gift to all that knew him. This is a
    beautiful and moving tribute. My heartfelt sympathies to you and your family. Such a great picture of the two of you 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s