AUGUSTA — Jim Paradis, 98, of Monmouth, sat in a recliner in the common area of his residence building at Togus on Nov. 5. He was watching television, draped in a brown coat, wearing a hat that bore the logo of the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

“He’s the man,” one of the nurses said as she approached Paradis. Later, the same nurse said it was an honor to help take care of him and other veterans at the Togus facilities.

Paradis returned the praise from the Togus staff.

“These people here treat me like royalty,” he said. “I love every one of ’em.”

After some of the things he has seen, Paradis may deserve the royal treatment.

He was on guard duty at Pearl Harbor, serving as an Army medic, on Dec. 7, 1941 — a day that will live on in infamy — when Japanese forces attacked the U.S. Naval base in the Hawaii Territory.

“I remember it was chaotic,” he said of the atmosphere. “That night I heard a lot of stuff on the radio that they were … coming in (again).

“I slept beneath a two-and-a-half ton truck in case they decided to bomb us again,” he added. “They never did.”

The attack on Pearl Harbor left 2,403 people dead and 1,143 wounded, according to the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau. Four ships were sunk in the attack, which was the catalyst for the United States’s entry into World War II.

Megan Kon, Togus public affairs officer, said there are 497,000 living veterans from World War II out of the 16.1 million that served during the conflict. Kon said 2,836 are living in Maine and 84 have had appointments at Togus since 2016.

Following the attack, Paradis returned to the mainland and received training to become an Air Force pilot. He achieved the rank of Major, the highest rank available to him without signing an indefinite contract.

He said he was a pilot in the Air Force for about 20 years, flying state-of-the-art planes — like Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Boeing B-29 Superfortress — over important military locations in World War II.

Following the war, he flew the Convair B-36 Peacemaker, which was the largest aircraft in the world from 1946-1947 and the first intercontinental strategic bomber.

The plane, powered by 10 engines, according to Paradis. They boasted a range of about 10,000 miles and a wingspan of 230 feet, according to the Federation of American Scientists. He said he soared at 50,000 feet with the plane, which was higher than any opposing plane could go.

“We did that because the Russians didn’t have anything that could reach us if they came to attack,” Paradis recalled. “We expected them to attack us; although they never did, we were prepared for them.”

After the war, he flew on missions more than 30 hours long. On his last mission in the Air Force, he was flying in blizzard conditions over Limestone’s Loring Air Force Base. He was low on fuel and in need of an emergency landing, but bases on the East Coast were closed.

“I came back and the whole East Coast was closed in tight,” Paradis said. “After swearing at them for awhile, they got a Master Sergeant out of bed and he talked me into the runway.

“We never saw a thing until we got off the airplane, we had some good people on the ground,” he added.

Paradis said the lieutenant colonel at the base was adversarial to him when he tried to land, which led him to quit the Air Force on the spot. He did, however, return to Fort Worth and serve out the last few days of his contract before retiring.

“I was madder than hell (at the lieutenant colonel), I told him to go to kiss my butt,” Paradis said. “I was all through … and I quit; I never flew another airplane for them.”

He said he finished the last few days of his commission out in Fort Worth and later was stationed in Japan, when he made one final flight back to the U.S.

Paradis grew up in Norridgewock, where he used to pilot something a little less state-of-the-art — a horse — to school. He moved to Monmouth after leaving the military, planting the roots for two generations of the Paradis family to reside there.

“I lived out in the country (in Norridgewock), about 4 miles from town,” he said. “I decided I wanted to go someplace else, so I bought a place in Monmouth.”

When he returned from the military, he co-founded a hot meal kitchen in Winthrop at St. Francis Church, which is still running, and was an air traffic controller at a remote control center in Nashua, New Hampshire.

“I got to be a journeyman air traffic controller,” Paradis said. “It was quite a life.”

He squeezed in some time for community service as well, joining the Monmouth Lions Club shortly after it was founded in 1953. The club helps distribute eyeglasses, hearing aids and cellphones to Monmouth residents, maintain recreational trails and hosts a number of community meals. He was also a founding member of the Monmouth Knights of Columbus.

“(The Lions are) a community affair and a program to benefit the community,” Paradis said. “I like the things they do for people.

“I was gone for about four years,” he laughed, “I came back and I walked in, they said ‘sit down, you’re still (working).'”

Paradis’s grandson Aaron is also a Lion in Monmouth. By referring his grandson to the club, James Paradis earned the Silver Centennial Membership Award. Guy Piper, Monmouth Lion’s Club membership chairperson, presented him with the award in October.

“He’s been a very valuable citizen in Monmouth,” Piper said, citing his diligence in working for the club on hunters’ breakfasts and Meals on Wheels programs.

Aaron Paradis said that he was proud to have been referred to the group by his grandfather. He said, growing up, he would garden with his grandfather.

“He was the one that used to take me to and from preschool,” he said. “Mostly, I remember him being one of the most generous people I’ve ever known.”

James Paradis’s son and Aaron’s father, Wayne Paradis, who declined his father’s invitation to be Lion, helped his father with some community service growing up. He said his father was heavily involved in Boy Scouts of American when he was a scout in the 1960s.

“I know that the various Lions members were very proud of him and pleased with the work that he did,” Wayne Paradis said. “He was always active; I know he’s well-liked in town.”

While James Paradis started in the Army and retired in the Air Force, Wayne Paradis said he started in the Air Force and retired in the Army. He said his father instilled the importance of the military in him and inspired him to serve.

“He and I are both very proud of our time in the military,” Wayne Paradis said. “We talk very often about how we would do it all over again if we could.”

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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