Lois Paulucci dies at age 89Lois M. Paulucci didn’t want her name on a sign that recognized her for her efforts in opening Bayfront Festival Park in 2001. It was a difficult task to convince her, said former Mayor Gary Doty, but she finally agreed to it.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Lois M. Paulucci didn’t want her name on a sign that recognized her for her efforts in opening Bayfront Festival Park in 2001.
It was a difficult task to convince her, said former Mayor Gary Doty, but she finally agreed to it.
“She’s done a whole lot in the community throughout the years that nobody knows about,” Doty said of Paulucci and her humble nature. “She wanted to see things happen, and she knew she had the ability to do it.”
Paulucci, 89, died in her home Sunday at Pike Lake after a lingering illness. The wife of Hibbing native frozen-food magnate and entrepreneur Jeno F. Paulucci, Lois Paulucci has, over several years, quietly helped to improve Duluth through her various philanthropic efforts.
But her legacy, said family spokesman and longtime friend Jim Tills, is not of the bricks and mortar her generosity often helped to produce.
“She was the best damn example of a wife and mother you could possibly imagine,” Tills said. “It was a full-time job for her. She lived for them.”
In a 2009 interview with the News Tribune, Jeno Paulucci said his greatest achievement was marrying Lois.
“She’s quite a gal, never changed; very down-to-earth,” he said. “That’s the greatest blessing anyone could get is a good mate, and that’s what I was blessed with.”
Lois gave Jeno the time and space throughout their 60-plus years of marriage to accomplish his goals, he said in 2009.
“Lois is the type of gal that doesn’t get flustered by things,” he said. “She just takes life as it comes.”
A native Duluthian and graduate of Duluth Central High School, Lois Paulucci became a member of the Duluth Hall of Fame in 2003. Her contributions to the community have included substantial funding for numerous projects, including Bayfront Festival Park and its warming shelter/picnic pavilion, which is named after her; the Trepanier Hall residence for women in the Duluth YWCA, named after her parents; the Solvay Hospice House and food for the needy.
The Pauluccis’ legacy in Duluth has been tremendous, said Pat Burns, president of the Miller-Dwan Foundation, which raised money for Solvay, opened in 2007. Solvay Hospice House was built because of the couple’s leadership, she said.
“They have been very compassionate to the disadvantaged,” Burns said. “They take great pride in Duluth in helping it be the best city it can possibly be.”
Lois Paulucci had a great sense of humor, Doty said, and was involved in many of the philanthropic decisions the family made. The work she did for Bayfront helped change the face of the waterfront, and encouraged more business in the Canal Park area, he said.
Bayfront was “just a piece of wetland,” Doty said. “Everything you see down there (now) is a result of their contribution.”
The warming shelter for the ice rink, Tills said, was “strictly her idea.”
With business headquarters in both Duluth and Florida, it would have been easy for the Pauluccis to spend their time in and focus their efforts on Florida, said Mayor Don Ness, but they remained committed to Northeastern Minnesota in important ways.
“They have stepped forward at times when there were great questions as to whether the city could accomplish major community goals, such as establishing a world-class festival park,” Ness said. “Duluth has lost a great champion, a great supporter and somebody who was always looking out for the interests of youth in our community.”
Despite the wealth Jeno Paulucci accumulated over decades of his work creating 50 companies, Lois did not live “ostentatiously,” Tills said.
“She didn’t put on glad rags all the time,” he said. “She was not the show pony.”
Lois was soft-spoken, strong-willed and friendly. She had a passion for needlework and her three children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends. She treated everyone equally, Tills said, and didn’t gossip.
“You had no doubt that when she said something, it was exactly what she meant,” Tills said. “Jeno quite often consulted her about how he conducted his life and business. He respected her advice, which was usually common sense.”
In the dedication of his 2005 autobiography, Jeno wrote, “Lois, you have been my guiding light and spirit, my supporter and my critic, and even the trimmer of my hair to this day … You straightened me out in a heartbeat. And you’re still doing a great job of cutting my hair — and cutting me down to size whenever I need it, which is pretty often.”
Lois traveled with her husband to Monaco when he was inducted into the World Entrepreneur of the Year Academy in 2003, but generally she “preferred to stay on the fringe,” Tills said, even though Jeno often credited her in his speeches.
Her philosophy of their marriage seemed to be, “ ‘You do what you need to do, and I will be here when you get done with it,’ ” Tills said. “They had a pretty good love story going.”