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Memories come alive at historic Mission Theater

Family and friends gathered Saturday, June 8, to celebrate the life of Paul Bourque, a father, son, brother, businessman, performer, photographer, philosopher and traveler, at a favorite place, the historic Mission Theater in Fallbrook.

My last missive touched on the theater as the staging of a benefit talent show titled the "Fallbrook Follies," and this episode is something of an elegy with words for a man whose memory was recently evoked at that beloved local landmark. I am truly thankful for both.

The setting was perfect because Paul and his sons, Justin and Andre, had frequently bared their souls on that time-worn wooden stage.

I never met this talented man, yet there I was as one of a hundred or more guests who gathered there to share tidbits of a life well lived. He died at age 82 after he suffered a string of health setbacks that included eye surgeries, heart disease, dementia and, finally, pneumonia.

Lest you think I am an odd duck, I should state that I've attended many memorial and funeral services for folks I never met.

My 44 years as a reporter have opened windows into numerous lives. And my service as a church deacon has allowed me to tend families as they say goodbye to loved ones in sadness, sorrow and sweet celebration.

For theater owner Roy Moosa, it was the second memorial service to be held at the theater since he purchased it nearly six years ago. My imagination runs free at that theater, and I have often popped in there for plays, concerts, movies and more.

A community leader with a historic flair, Moosa filled the 75-year-old treasure with a collection of movie memorabilia.

And Paul Bourque's fingerprints – as well as those of his sons – are all over the place. It takes raw courage – which I do not possess – to be an entertainer. Paul did it with panache on the stage, television, radio and movies. He was the star of one movie and the co-star of at least three others. He was adept at the dialects of Boston, New York and the Deep South. He mastered the Irish, Italian, Russian, French and British accents.

He had a curious mind and could handle a gun, play golf, bowl, swim, ski and skate on blades and wheels. He was a key figure in the Fallbrook Players, which dominated the theater stage and other local venues for decades up until the 1990s.

A short list of his theater credits includes "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Brighton Beach Memoirs," "Julius Caesar," "As You Like It," "The Music Man," Guys and Dolls," "Sound of Music," "South Pacific," "My Fair Lady," "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "Brooklyn Boy."

Paul was raised as a Catholic and spent two years in the seminary. He came to join the Baha'i, which eschews all priesthoods and ritual forms of worship. The faith centers on the independent investigation of truth and the harmony of science and religion.

Paul and his wife, Iris, were married for nearly 42 years, and all but eight of that span was anchored here in Fallbrook. They were married in the Fallbrook Community Center in August 1982. She was a career educator, teaching special education at Oceanside Unified School District and adult education at Miracosta College.

Paul was buried at Fallbrook's Masonic Cemetery. The theater memorial service was led by Bill Garbat, the couple's longtime friend. Garbat closed the service by performing "Amazing Grace," which was one of Paul's favorite songs.

I'm sure Paul's spirit was smiling at us from stage right that day. One seat of the theater – C-12 – has a small brass plaque attached to the back with the couple's name etched into the surface. Their sons' names claim the adjacent seat.

"It (the service) was very special," Iris Bourque said later. "It was the perfect venue to do it. We have very special memories of the theater."


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