Paul Savage was one of those people any organization counts itself lucky to have. The person who helps keep everything running, who solves problems, who gives selflessly of time and energy.
“He was a sweet man. He was an absolutely welcoming person,” said Jon Schumacher, executive director of the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation. “And, like I said to his son at his memorial service — there are those people who get the headlines and those people who actually make things happen. Paul was a glue guy.”
After decades of service to St. Paul and the St. Anthony Park neighborhood — as a neighborhood organizer, a past president of the neighborhood association and an American Red Cross volunteer driver — Savage, 94, died Jan. 20 at the Minnesota Veterans Home after a brief illness. Schumacher said he was a “foundational” leader of the community.
“He made sure that our community was connected with each other, but also connected with the rest of St. Paul and the larger community,” he said of Savage, who also served on the St. Paul Capital Improvement Budget Committee under five mayors. “He understood how important that was.”
Savage made his living in business — first over the years at Control Data Corp., said his daughter Anne Savage LeDuc, then at Medtronic. But volunteering captured his heart.
“His volunteer work was his life,” she said. “If he had lived in a different era, he would have lived to do community organizing or worked in the nonprofit world.”
Savage was born July 18, 1921, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. He was a World War II veteran who served in the 98th Bombardment Group in North Africa and Italy, recording his experiences in a memoir titled “The Big One.” After the war and graduating from the University of Iowa, he moved to Minnesota and began his corporate career.
It was in St. Anthony Park, said LeDuc, where her father discovered the means to make a difference. He helped St. Paul launch its district council system, serving with distinction in District 12. He served seven three-year terms on the Capital Improvement Budget Committee, was an early member and past president of the St. Anthony Park Association, and served as treasurer of the Block Nurse Program. He even drove elderly residents to appointments as a Red Cross volunteer driver.
“We’ve been talking about Dad, about why he was so community-centered,” LeDuc said. “I think it was that generation. They came home from the war and they were prepared to make the world a better place. They were going to have families; they were going to just contribute. That was very important.”
He was president of the St. Anthony Park Neighborhood Association when women were first admitted. “It seems crazy now,” LeDuc said. “But it was so controversial.” But equality was “a big deal” to her father, who considered himself a “Humphrey Democrat,” she said.
Schumacher, who moved to the same block as the Savages 29 years ago, said he was someone who believed that relationships mattered in organizations and that work on behalf of one’s community mattered.
“He really was a model for me to understand how important it was to look beyond our neighborhood,” he said. “He enjoyed people. He liked being at those meetings and playing those roles to support the community — and that’s rare.”
Besides his daughter, Savage is survived by his wife, Arla; a son, Jim Savage; three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Services have been held.