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The First Dark Day

Submitted by on Sunday, 10 May 200917 Comments
PJ (Paul Scharff) At The Age of 2 (1972)

PJ (Paul Scharff) At The Age of 2 (1972)

I should explain that people did not always call me Paul. Growing up people called me PJ. When I was born my father told my mother that he was going to call me PJ and to fill in the blanks. So she did. My name is Paul Joseph. This was confusing to me being called PJ but having a different name. I had finally figured it out when I enrolled at Hilltop School for the second grade; I was not always a quick learner. The counselor at the school asked if I wanted to be called PJ or Paul. I said Paul but my family would still call me PJ and my friends called me either/or but mostly Paul. On June 2nd, 1981, I really didn’t feel like PJ anymore. The funny thing is that most people must have felt the same way because after that day only a handful of them ever called me PJ again. On the day of my father’s murder, I would become Paul.

I think that I am in a state of shock. It has been about twenty-four hours since I learned that my father was killed. I sense darkness in my life. The world is new to me again and I don’t like it. Whatever parallel my life had to the Brady Bunch was gone for sure now. I knew the world was a rough place and I was very disconnected from my old life or even my new life. I was concerned about it because I did not want to worry others with strange behavior.  I could not help it. People would talk and I would hear them but I could not tell you what they just said to me. I don’t know if anyone noticed that I was struggling because I tried to hide it. I believed that I would be connected again but I was scared to think what I would be connecting to.

Ron and Kathy Scharff New Years (1971)

Ron and Kathy Scharff New Years (1971)

I went outside to eat a sandwich; I wanted to be by myself. As I sat by our front door, a couple of joggers were jogging by. The one commented to the other, “In that house, that is the lady whose husband was shot at the bar.” Didn’t those fuckers see me? They damn near pointed right at me. I knew my new world was going to get tougher, now that I understand that we are now a novelty for having lost my father. This was only my first lesson in how insensitive people would be. Everything is getting darker.

We had a lot of family over at the house. Good thing because somebody had to eat all of this food. There was tons of food and I remember thinking that it was a shame that I did not have an appetite. There were a few relatives that I would look for around the house to pass my time. My cousin’s Debbie, Dagmar, Mathias and my Uncle Ricky. My cousins were the children of my father’s oldest brother. My uncle was my dad’s youngest sibling. My cousins and I would fight for my uncle’s attention. He was the cool uncle. When I was younger I would like to draw pictures. I have a pretty good natural ability to draw or sketch and so did my uncle. When we would draw together, I felt like I had my uncle to myself and all my older cousins could not compete. I recall my uncle back then not because we drew anything together on those days but how important it is to implement life lessons. Two months exactly to the date of my father being killed, my uncle would be killed by a drunk driver on August 2nd of that year. No matter what is going on; Always say the things that have to be said. I digress.

The family and I are waiting to head down to my Uncle Bill’s house in Romeoville, IL for the wake and funeral. I remember that my father’s wake was delayed. We did not know if we could have an open casket or not. My father was shot in the head at the temple. The McHenry County Sheriff took part of his skull for evidence. The funeral home had a lot of work to do if we were going to have an open casket. The funeral home was Salerno and Son’s. The family that owned the funeral home was friends of my father. They all knew each other from the neighborhood they grew up in Chicago. My mother was finally able to make arrangements but we were not going to find out if my father was going to have an open casket until the last minute.  Now we are off to my father’s brother’s house for the wake and funeral.

I really can’t believe that tomorrow is my birthday.

Amazon link to Murder In McHenry

This is the Amazon link to the book Murder In McHenry by Paul Scharff and Keith Bettinger

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17 Comments »

  • Craig Wallace says:

    Paul –

    As one of your closest friends I forgot the agony that you had when you were a little boy. I imagine the pain my oldest son Justin would endure in losing me. Reading this not only saddens me but also reminds me that you missed a lot of the great things a father can bring to a young child. I am however, happy that even without the molding of your father you turned out just fine. You have many great qualities and I am sure many of those were traits you inherited from your father. I can only think that today being Mothers Day you were able to tell your mom thanks for all the hard work and effort she put into raising you and your brothers.

    Your Bud,

    Craig

  • Paul Scharff says:

    Hey Craig,
    You are not the only one that has forgotten some of these things. Some of it is my first recollection since that day. In recollection, I am amazed by myself with what was endured and how I acted towards it. I will be writing more about some of the things that I did to cope. I appreciate you reading my thoughts. Thank you for thinking that I came out fine even without my father. And yes Craig I sent my mom a big thing of flowers and I just got off the phone with her. Take care Buddy!

    Paulie

  • Ron says:

    Paul, this is very well written. Thank you for sharing with us. I know this can’t be easy going back to relive it, but I for one appreciate you being willing to do it.

  • Paul Scharff says:

    No thank you Ron for reading it and putting all this together for me to do it. Everyone should know that without you this website and blog would not exist. Thank You so much on behalf of myself, my family and the Freeman’s. I want to personally thank you for allowing me to write, I think it helps. Take Care Ron!!

  • Clark says:

    Paul,
    Your courage, perseverance, your dedication to things has always been an inspiration to me. Your blog was really so well written. I can’t say that I know your pain and what you and your family have been going through. I don’t. I do know this. I consider it an honor and a privilage to know you. I’m proud to call you a friend and I pray that someone (probably you) is able to wake up the lame-ass McHenry “supposed” police department and force them to do something about their neglegent attempt at investigating.
    I’m always here when you need someone to make fun of, by the way. lol
    C.

  • Paul Scharff says:

    Hey Clarkie…I appreciate the comments and thank you for reading my blog. I am glad to call you a friend!

    Paul

  • Wendy says:

    This is so damn heartbreaking. I can’t even imagine what I would have thought. My father died of natural causes when I was 25 and I handled that horribly. I hated the family rally at the house, I hated the food, I hated the talking – the laughter, and I especially hated the flowers (that too would die). It was all to much for me and I was at an age of understanding. You were so young to have your world turned upside down like that. Again, I couldn’t even imagine. I think it’s VERY good that you are taking the time to write this down. Writing can be therapeutic. I wish you peace in your heart.

  • Paul Scharff says:

    Thank you Wendy for wishing me peace. I can relate to all the things that you described. Being young may have been advantage for some things. I was too scared to not have things be normal so I tried real hard to make them normal. I let go things that did not matter. It took me a long time though. Thank you for reading and thank you for writing me Wendy!

  • Nick says:

    Paul-

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. I hope that you continue to find a calmness on this subject, and writing about it will certainly help. Like Craig, a great fear of mine is the effect that an early departure would have on my kids. Not so much that I fear it for myself, but for what they would have to endure as you have. Through your writing, maybe others in a similar situation can learn to find peace in themselves.

    Nick

  • Sharon says:

    Paul,

    Your courage, perseverance, and dedication is amazing. I have been to your house and recall the horses etc…I can visualize some of what you are describing but the pain you and your family felt and are feeling is a pain I can not imagine. You have a great deal of strength to not give up on this investigation and to write about it. Your blog is amazing to read and I hope it has helped you and your family cope with all that has happened.

  • Diane Harrison says:

    Hey Paul,
    Your story saddens me and I’m so sorry you had to grow up without your father. I would like to say that you appear to be a very strong man and I feel priveledged to know you and work with you. It is also my priveledge to call you my friend(if I may). You are an inspiration to many of us. Keep the faith, it looks great on you 😉

    Regards,
    Diane S. Harrison

  • Betts says:

    Paul,
    I must say i teared up and stopped reading for a moment.As someone who went to school with you since the second grade i did know a bit more then the average Joe at the time.Between your lose and my brothers classmate loosing his Mother that day i heard quite a bit and i am still concerned about this story that should have had an ending years ago.I am praying you and all families involved will eventually find the peace you so deserve.If you ever need anything just ask.Best Wishes,Mike Betts

  • Ron says:

    Jesus, Mike – not to give anything away, but wait until the next posting. It will make your heart burst.

  • Paul Scharff says:

    Hi Mike,
    It has been real good to hear from those that I grew up and remember this awful day. I am always surprised by some of the comments that I read. All though we were there together, I wasn’t. I was on another world and it took me some time to get my bearings about me. I find it interesting to hear what was going because I don’t remember everything. Thank you for your well wishes and prayers. Please keep reading and following this case to the end. Thank you Mike!!

    Paul

  • Paul Scharff says:

    Hi Diane,
    Thank you for your comments. One way or another, I am who I am from that day; good or bad. I try to do right and recall some of the many lessons that my father had provided before he was killed. It is tough not having a father and sometimes I find myself in situations were I wish he was here to guide me. That was not meant to be so I have to find other ways to get the job done. You are very sweet to say what you have said and of course call me FRIEND! Thank you Diane!!

    Paul

  • Paul Scharff says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I am glad you can see my old stomping grounds. This will always be home in my heart even though it also represents the worse in my life too. Neverless, this is my home. I love that you try to walk in my path and very grateful that you couldn’t. All I can do is describe what it was like but I will never fully reconnect to that day either; but I don’t think that I am suppose too. Please keep reading Sharon and follow my plight on getting this case closed. Thank you for your well wishes.

    Paul

  • Paul Scharff says:

    Hey Nick,
    Thank you for commenting. I would hope many fathers will think of their son as I write about me. These are the things that really happen to people when inhumanity strikes. It is also important that the community acts when the system seems to fail. Nothing will replace a love one lost but not doing the right things drags out the pain for those already in emotional peril. I hope that I can be an example for many fathers to never want this for their sons. Maybe that will force the community to face the machine. Thanks again for your thoughts Nick!!

    Paul

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