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DENVER -- At least once a month, April Johnson visits the Olinger Hampden Cemetery to pay her respects to a man who earned her respect.
"I was angry for a little bit that he was gone because I miss him," said Johnson, who was a colleague of Paul Cary. "The way he passed away, he deserves something great for what he did for all of us."
Cary, a retired Aurora firefighter and paramedic, volunteered last April to fight COVID-19 in a New York City hot spot.
"Working for Ambulnz, he got the call to go to New York, and he didn't hesitate to go because, that's Paul. That's service," said Cary's colleague, Royce Davis, who also went to New York on that deployment and became close to Cary. "He needs to be remembered."
Within a month of arriving in New York, Cary succumbed to the virus himself, a large procession of emergency vehicles paid tribute when Cary's body was returned to Colorado and quietly laid to rest.
But for April Johnson, every time she visited the temporary marker, it seemed like a call to action.
"So I asked them to reach out to the family to see if we could fundraise," said Johnson.
Family members said they had planned to buy a marker, but had not yet been able to.
So Johnson launched a GoFundMe campaign, quickly raising nearly enough money for a standard headstone, but hoping for something more.
"They had an artist draw a marker for Paul and didn't realize how expensive it was going to be," said Johnson. "We're quite a bit short for that."
"He needs to be remembered and remembered in the right way. He gave all," said Davis, who said the EMS community feels Cary was a hero.
Johnson said Cary might not have liked all the attention, but for her, it helps to finally say goodbye.
"I miss his smiles and his hugs," said Johnson. "He died doing what he loved. But it was a little sooner than we all thought."
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