Observing the transformation of the yard of his home in Towson since he bought it back about 15 years ago from a very standard plan suburban lawn into a garden, his neighbors can easily figure out that 88 year old Paul Gregory, who declares himself a “bachelor”, is an avid gardener with a darn good eye for landscape design. The history of this man might have you looking at him with new eyes.
Early on, Paul demonstrated a love of drawing and arts. During high school years, his parents arranged for him to take lessons with Harry Townsend, an artist famous for his battlefield illustrations of World War I who by chance had ended up living in nearby Norwalk, CT. At the same time, his father cautioned young Paul that most artists couldn’t make enough money to support themselves.
As soon as he turned 18, Paul enlisted in the Navy. Three years later, with World War II over, he took advantage of the GI bill and graduated from Yale in 1950.
A year later and eager to explore the world, he moved to New York City finding work in advertising (Shades of early 1950’s “Man Men“!). Hanging out in mid-town Manhattan saloons like P.J. Clarke’s , he met another young man who helped start him with his “coming out” process. Filled with wanderlust, the two of them were off to the west coast and ended up in San Francisco around 1954. It was around this time that Paul learned the wisdom of keeping a low profile about his sexuality and he started referring to himself as a “bachelor” – a code phrase for being a gay man (which is almost inevitably accompanied by a wink and sparkle in his eyes).
As things will happen, both he and that first friend moved on and got involved with other men. In Paul’s case, he luckily met another handsome guy who lived down the coast near Carmel and they came to live together. He went back to school for a year and earned accreditation as a teacher and worked as a social studies teacher for about 10 years. Overcome though with a bout with wanderlust, both men left their jobs behind and finessed a sojourn in Europe. First, a long stay in England and then that was followed by a long stay in Spain’s Costa del Sol. Fate intervened though, Paul got word that his mother was seriously ill and needed help. Paul returned to the USA becoming a care giver for his ill mother at the family home for about ten year.
Following his mother’s passing, retired and living in coastal Connecticut in the 1980’s, his boyhood interest in the arts resurfaced and he took courses in painting at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts as well as becoming a docent at the Florence Griswold museum in Old Lyme which is renowned for its collection of American impressionist art.
Ready for a change from New England, Paul moved south and lived a year in the Arlington Towers apartment complex across from the Iwo Jima memorial. He became more intrigued by Maryland and greater Baltimore and in the mid-1990’s took advantage of more reasonable real estate prices to buy his house in Towson. He took advantage of the Baltimore branch of “Prime Timers” to make a few new friends. He also started attending St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in downtown Baltimore and an early leader in the “Reconciling in Christ” movement which makes a point of welcoming gay and lesbian parishioners.
Having decided in his 80’s that it was time to stop driving and sell his car, Paul is lucky to have a a long time younger friend who helps him with the house, takes him grocery shopping and to doctor appointments as well as weekend “eat outs” and drives in the countryside.
In addition to his gardening, he still actively paints (with his easel carefully positioned in front of a north-facing window!) and is always eager to grab a pen or pencil and start sketching. Interestingly, there are about a 100 wonderful oil portraits and landscapes that he painted scattered around the house (which only a very few friends have ever seen).
Amazingly, just in the past three years, Paul has learned how to use a “PC” and takes advantage of “googling” to satisfy his curiosity about the world .
Even at 88, seeing him flirt with a waiter or watch his eyes zoom in on some gentleman across a restaurant dining room, it’s clear though that being 88 years old hasn’t gotten in the way of appreciating a good looking man!