Orson Paul Gygi — most knew him as Paul — made friends everywhere. As an energetic restaurant equipment salesman, Gygi first sold himself, then sold his products.
“He had a heart of gold,” longtime friend and business associate Brent Matthews said. “If I was broken down on the side of the road, I knew he’d come and get me.”
Gygi died at his Holladay home Wednesday at age 81 of an illness that had kept him bedridden for the past three years.
Matthews, who owns Taylor Freezer of Utah, said he and Gygi often served the same customers. Their friendship bloomed and lasted for 35 years.
“He was a fun guy to be around and a great friend,” Matthews said. “I’m going to miss him.”
For 30 years, Gygi worked as a salesman alongside his three brothers in their father’s Orson H. Gygi Co., then owned and operated GSI Restaurant Supply in Orem for 12 years before retiring in 1998 for health reasons.
His wife of 56 years, Ilene Gygi, reminisced about her husband’s first sales call after returning home from military service during the Korean War.
“Dad sent him out with an armful of brooms and said not to come back until he’d sold them all,” Ilene Gygi said. He returned a half-hour later, mission accomplished, she said.
“He was an extremely outgoing and friendly person.”
Because of his line of work, Gygi often was tapped to prepare food for large gatherings.
“He was the master of the cooking, and he loved it,” Ilene Gygi said. However, he seldom cooked at home.
“He didn’t know how to cut the recipe down for five people,” Ilene Gygi said. “He made pudding once, and we had it for a month.”
His son, Gary Gygi, remembers him as an “old-school guy” who got up at 4:30 a.m. and worked into the night. However, he would play with the same gusto.
Father and son enjoyed hunting and restoring wrecked cars together, a hobby that spilled over to include next-door neighbor Scott Neff.
“He’d find cars at the wrecking yard, I’d fix them up, he’d turn around and sell them — and we’d split the profits,” said Neff, who now owns Scott’s Auto Body & Painting in South Salt Lake.
“To me, he was a really nice guy, and I just enjoyed being with him.”
Gygi is survived by his wife Ilene, daughter Korene Bird, son Gary (Sue), 11 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, two sisters — Marjeanne (Ross) McDonald and Lola Timmins — and one brother, Perry (Ann).
He was preceded in death by infant son Michael Paul, daughter Cheryl Winters and brothers Wayne and Wally.
The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Holladay’s 4th Ward, 4917 Viewmont St. (2085 East).
Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Holladay-Cottonwood Memorial Mortuary, 4670 S. Highland Drive, and again at the church one hour before the service.
Condolences can be submitted online at www.memorialutah.com.