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Handyman gets a helping hand from community

by: Jaime Valdez, Debbie Hessick kisses her husband Paul during a recent visit to the family-owned Falk Ace Hardware store in Beaverton.

For three decades Paul Hessick has been the Mr. Fix-It expert customers depended on when items around their home went on the fritz.

As the owner of the family-run Falk Ace Hardware in Beaverton, he could often be found in the aisles of the store with a customer patiently explaining the right tools needed to complete a job and providing careful instructions on how to tackle the task.

The beloved handyman has devoted his life to helping others with their mechanical problems.

But after a devastating car accident last November left him in a coma for three weeks and in the intensive care unit for a month, the hardware store's loyal employees and customers returned the favor by offering their help as the Hessick family focused on Paul's recovery.

'It was so nice to have the support of the community and our amazing employees,' said Debbie Hessick, Paul's wife. 'It meant a great deal to us.'

The Falk Hardware staff rallied to keep the store open as the close-knit family kept a steady vigil at Paul's side in the hospital.

'We didn't know how we were going to keep the store running,' said Nichole Hessick, Paul and Debbie's daughter. 'We are so grateful they stayed with us and pulled together when we had to be at the hospital.'

Even customers stepped in to do their part, she said.

'People would come in when they didn't really need to buy anything,' Nichole added. 'They would buy something anyway or make a donation and ask about dad. Everyone has been absolutely amazing.'

Being in the business of helping others, the Hessicks were overwhelmed by those who went out of their way to shoulder some of the family's burden.

'It's humbling to be on the other side and have to rely on the help of others,' said Nichole, who immediately moved back to the area and stepped into both her parents' shoes to run the business in their absence. 'It was amazing having people to fall back on.

'Our entire life changed in a heartbeat.'

A miracle

Paul was on his way home for dinner just after 7 p.m. Nov. 26, after spending time at his son Steven's house.

He can remember driving westbound along Canyon Road in his 1995 Pontiac Firebird.

Near the Southwest 110th Avenue intersection, something caused Paul to lose control of the car and cross over the median into oncoming traffic, where two sports utility vehicles slammed into the driver's side of the Firebird.

Paul was pinned inside the vehicle for 30 minutes as emergency crews were forced to cut him out of the wreckage.

'There's a lot of things I don't remember about the accident, but I will,' he said.

'The fact he's alive is a miracle,' Debbie added.

Paul sustained several head injuries, extensive frontal lobe damage and a broken left leg in the accident. Further medical tests revealed that he was also bleeding internally from a hole in his diaphragm and tear in the bottom of his heart.

'The doctors told us he was not going to make it because he had such severe brain damage,' Nichole recalled.

'They also told us that he would probably have to lose his left leg,' Debbie said.

It was a scary time for the family.

'We almost lost him, but he kept fighting,' Debbie said.

'At one point doctors told us he was down to life or limb,' Nichole added. 'Mom said, 'Just wait,' and she was right.

'The thought of having to make that decision when your loved one is in a coma is horrible. I mean how do you tell him when he wakes up that he only has one leg.'

Paul, who enjoys restoring and riding old hot rods, motorcycles and dirt bikes, would have been devastated.

As he listened to his daughter talk about how hard Debbie fought to keep doctors from amputating his leg, Paul looked over at his wife and said, 'Thank you.'

Debbie looked into his eyes, touched his shoulder and smiled as Nichole continued with the story.

'It was a miracle when he woke up Dec. 18 and spoke his first words on New Year's Day,' Nichole said. 'It was awesome and the best way to start the new year.'

'Labor of love'

In order to get Paul into tip-top shape so he can return to the work he loves, Debbie temporarily stepped away from her responsibilities in the family hardware business to focus her energy on her husband's recovery.

After refusing to put him in a nursing home for care as he recovers from his injuries, Debbie instead got all the medical equipment needed to create a mini-hospital in the living room of their Aloha home.

Meanwhile, Nichole took the helm of the hardware store, taking over both of her parents' duties in running the business.

'We are in the fix-it business,' Nichole noted. 'He's our labor of love.'

Both of the women in Paul's life are pleased with the progress he continues to make on his road to recovery.

'He's in the healing process and he's doing great,' Debbie said. 'He has made tremendous progress.

'He's starting to walk now and has no paralysis or seizures. He has complete function of everything and his cognitive skills are getting better every day.'

As part of his healing plan, Paul completes outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

'He blows the doctors away when they see him,' Nichole said. 'His will and determination has brought him as far as he has come.

'And we won't allow anything less.'

Hardware in the blood

Paul is determined to return to his work.

'There's a lot of hardware in this blood,' he said. 'I've always been extremely handy and mechanical. Fixing things is what I know best.'

Paul began managing Falk Ace Hardware in 1978. His family bought the business in 1995.

'I was 23 when I started here and had worked in the hardware business since I was 13,' he explained. 'I worked after school and on the weekends with my uncle at a hardware store in Arizona. I started by cleaning bathrooms and emptying trash cans and worked my way up.'

Over the years, Paul and Debbie encouraged both of their children to learn the skills of the trade by working in the shop.

Being able to share his knowledge with others, especially his family, meant a great deal to him.

'It's what I want to do most,' Paul said. 'It's nice to know how to do things the right way.'

It's also something he excels at, his wife added.

'Paul is the main hub of the entire organization,' Debbie said. 'He's the best with customers.

'Even though we have talented people working here, customers would only allow Paul to help them.'

'They always want dad first because they know he doesn't steer people in the wrong direction,' Nichole said. 'All the old ladies love him because they know they are not going to get taken advantage of.

'It's also no secret that he likes to chitchat with everybody.'

During a recent visit to the store, Paul admitted it was tough not being able to help customers yet.

'I like being here, but it's hard not being able to do everything you want to do,' he said. 'I can't wait to take something apart.'

Until then, it's business as usual at Falk Hardware.

'We are just thrilled with the progress dad's made and are so grateful for the support we've received from the community,' Nichole said.