Everyone's life has a story. In "Lives," we tell some of those stories about North Shore people who have died recently. "Lives" runs Mondays in The Salem News.

SALEM — At 59, there's no question Salem resident Paul Sauvageau died too young. But everyone agrees he got his money's worth while he was here.

Right up until the end, Sauvageau was a bundle of passion: a historian, educator, marine biologist, photographer, amateur model, world traveler and avid scuba diver. He died June 21 doing what he loved: diving with a group of friends off the coast of North Carolina. It's unclear how he died — an equipment failure, a sudden health issue — but his family and the dozens of friends he made over many years in the North Shore Frogmen scuba diving club have been dealt a heavy blow by the loss.

"It's a horrible feeling; somebody like him should not be gone at the snap of a finger," said fellow diver Peter Cassidy, a friend since the two met at North Shore Community College almost four decades ago. "He was a very skilled diver, a good diver, a safe diver. But answering those questions (about how he died) will not bring him back. We all want answers, but right now we all just want to think about all the good things about Paul."

When you talk to friends and family, the good comes gushing out like Old Faithful. The guy was a wiz, holding three degrees — a bachelor's in marine biology, a master's in international relations and a doctorate in curriculum development — and he gobbled up new information with intensity.

"He was a true academic, the type of guy who doesn't belong in a regular 9-to-5 type job, it's not in his blood," said his brother Marc, who lives in Phoenix with his wife. Another brother, Albert, lives with his wife in Florida; their mother, Lauriette, still lives in Salem.

A veteran of the Air Force, Sauvageau worked as a teacher, curriculum developer, air traffic controller, respiratory therapist, hospital worker and scientist. He once spent a couple of years in Saudi Arabia helping a firm obtain licensing for a new power plant. His job was to dive in the Red Sea and collect necessary data.

At the end of his employment, his company told him he could go home any way he wanted; he chose the long route. For a year he traveled the world, stopping in India, Nepal, Vietnam, Australia, Europe. He met Mother Teresa at a stop in India, and she personally handed him a prayer bead.

But for all his eclectic interests, diving and marine life were tops. He dove in the Atlantic, the Pacific, even Darwin's Galapagos Islands. He usually had a camera on hand to capture it all.

"He started young, in his early 20s" Marc remembers. "All of us were born and raised near Palmer Cove (in Salem). We played there all the time as kids (at an uncle's house), turning over rocks, finding sea creatures. He loved the ocean from the beginning, and I think diving was just an extension of the adventure."

Naturally, he joined the North Shore Frogmen, one of the oldest sport diving clubs in the world. The group meets weekly at Palmer's Cove Yacht Club, near where he grew up. He was twice the club's president in the early 2000s, and through the sheer force of his charisma, energy and passion, ushered in a new era for the club, according to Cassidy, a fellow past president.

"He helped tremendously in injecting new life in the club," Cassidy said.

In the late 1990s members were getting older and the number of active members had declined precipitously since its heyday in the 1980s. But if there was anyone who had the energy to get things back on track, it was Paul Sauvageau.

"Paul worked hard at the meetings and behind the scenes to engage people, get more people in the club," Cassidy said. "He was very easy to get along with, very good at diplomacy. He was a mediator and a problem solver."

"He was the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone at anytime," said John Sears, the current club president. "If there was some event or something going on and you needed someone to take up the cause or do it all by himself, Paul would step up and give it his total effort. He was an awesome person."

Laura Gallagher, a fellow underwater photographer, has been in the club for only two years, but counted Sauvageau as one of her dearest friends.

"When I was a new member, he was very warm and welcoming and we became really quick friends," she said. When she was between apartments, Sauvageau even put her up in his house for a couple of weeks.

"He's very generous. ... He's there for people. He'd do anything for anyone, and he was very much a character."

Because of Sauvageau's resemblance to KFC's Colonel Sanders, Gallagher and others took to calling him "The Colonel." Guess what he came dressed as for the club's annual Halloween party?

"He looked just like him. He had a rubber chicken and everything. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen," Gallagher said. "He was a really good sport about everything."

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