As the back door closed the last time on the 26th of February, it was the end of an era in the Purdue Extension Office here in Howard County.  Paul Marcellino, the Agriculture and Natural Resources educator for the last eight years, accepted a new position as the East District Director for the entire Extension Organization.  His departure leaves not only an empty desk, but a hole in our team.  

Paul spent the last eight years improving life for farmers, students, teachers, families, and a whole host of others.  He led initiatives to grow the reach of the Community Garden and the Howard County Master Gardeners.  He taught about the life cycle of chickens to thousands of Howard County Youth.  He gave his time to the Howard County Planning Commission, the Kokomomentum program, Howard County Farm Bureau, and countless other groups who needed his input and support.  He mentored new educators, both in our office and across the state. 

Two years ago, Paul was awarded the Crooks Award, which is the highest honor awarded to an educator in the state of Indiana.  He was the best of over 240 educators.  He helped families prepare to pass farms and businesses on to the next generation as a part of the Succession Planning Team.  Paul has stood for Women in Ag.  Paul has advocated for the next generation of farmers.  Paul was an institution in our little section of the world.

That’s not why his departure resonates in our office.  His loss is felt each time we open the doors.  Paul was the last one in the office more times than I can count and it’s sad the days we turn out the lights ourselves.  Paul worked tirelessly on every project he ever started.  We miss our friend working by our side.  Paul was a shoulder to cry on and the biggest champion for his people.  We were always supported, no matter the circumstances.  If you knew Paul, you were a friend. His laughter filled our space and was infectious to all of those who could hear. Most days, the office is kind of quiet now.  Paul treated every person like they were the reason he got up in the morning.  He made our office a safe and happy place to work.

To be honest, I miss Paul the most when I sit in his chair.  Paul and I shared an office the last year he worked in Howard County.  The day he left, he told me it was time to take the big desk in our shared space.  Now see, that’s the biggest problem for me.  It’s still Paul’s chair.  It’s still Paul’s computer on the desk.  It’s still Paul’s office, but there isn’t any Paul.  So I will do my best to make sure our new Ag and Natural Resources educator knows the man and leader who sat there before. 

I will help them get situated in the county and introduce them to our little part of the world. But most of all, I will be their champion and friend, because that is the way Paul taught me.  Paul continues to do great work with the East District of Extension and we wish him the best as he continues to make our organization stronger.