Archiver > CARIBBEAN > 2004-06 > 1088491883

From: (Richard Bond)
Subject: Virgin Islands Historian - Michael A Paiwonsky - Obit
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 02:51:23 -0400

Historian, Politician Michael Paiewonsky Is Dead at 64
by Molly Morris and Jean Etsinger
VI Source

Michael Paiewonsky in his Grand Galleria outlet when it opened in 2001
(Nathan Gates photo)

      June 17, 2004 - Many in the V.I. community were shocked
and saddened to learn Thursday afternoon of the death of Michael Albert
Paiewonsky – publisher, historian, art patron, politician, author and
native son.

      Paiewonsky, 64, was found stricken Wednesday evening in
his San Juan home, according to friends, and died while being taken by
ambulance to a hospital. A medical examiner said on Thursday that an
autopsy would be performed on Friday to determine the cause of death.

      The son of historian and businessman Isidor Paiewonsky
and his wife, Charlotte, Michael Paiewonsky inherited his father's
passion for preserving the history of the Virgin Islands through the
medium of print. His political bent was reflective of Ralph Paiewonsky,
his uncle, who as governor of the Virgin Islands in the 1960s created
the infrastructure for its tourism industry and attracted Hess Oil to
St. Croix.

      Michael Paiewonsky started the MAPes MONDe Editore
publishing house, with offices on St. Thomas and in Rome, where he was
then living, to produce and market museum-quality reproductions of
historic maps, books and artwork as well as to reprint historic
documents and publish new works on V.I. history, including books written
by himself and his father. He initially sold the items through his
family's A.H. Riise Store on Main Street and later opened separate MAPes
MONDe Ltd. shops on St. Thomas and St. John.

      For more information about his newest outlet, opened in
the renovated Grand Hotel complex in 2001, see "History Alive and Well
at Grand Galleria".)

      In recent years, Paiewonsky also launched an online
business, MAPes, which he described on its main page as "a
store following family tradition since the 1870s when my family
immigrated to St. Thomas, then the Danish West Indies. It is virtually
situated in the Virgin Islands."

      Paiewonsky had recently married Elaine del Pilar and
moved to San Juan to live.

      His daughter by a previous marriage, Mahine Andrea Riise
Paiewonsky, was married to Alexander Steward at the American Church in
Oslo, Norway, last Aug. 15. Paiewonsky and his previous wife, Annemor,
attended the ceremony.

      Paiewonsky served in the 13th and 14th Legislatures,
holding office from 1979 to 1983. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat in
the 24th Legislature in 2000 and was defeated in a run for the
congressional delegate's seat in the early '90s. However, his interest
in politics and his community never abated.

      He was outspoken in his views on the community's ills
and how to solve them. A prolific writer of opinion pieces for the
Source, he commented on everything from roads to the judicial system. A
bit of his spirit is reflected in this excerpt from an Op-ed essay
written in 2000: "The fabric of our community is rent as local carnival
culture sweeps aside bread-and-butter issues we face. It is not even
true that half the Senate body 'is not a pack of asses'."

      Elmo Roebuck, president of the 13th Legislature, like
many in the community, was stunned by the news of Paiewonsky's death.
"It caught me completely off guard," he said Thursday afternoon. "I'm
deeply saddened by the loss. He grew up here, and he has recorded a lot
of our history. It's a big loss for the Virgin Islands."

      Roebuck said Paiewonsky had come to visit him just two
weeks ago. "He brought two maps for my wife and me as a belated wedding
present. The maps are from the early 1700s. He said he had gone to live
in Puerto Rico."

      In the Legislature, Roebuck said, Paiewonsky "always had
very innovative ideas; he was one of the new thinkers and very engaged
in the Democratic Party. Some of his ideas didn't get much support,
because he was running a little faster than other members of the
Legislature. He was really ingenious."

      As a politician, "he was the type you wanted to work
with," Roebuck added. "He didn't have all this petty nonsense. He was
really a scholar. He did proper research."

      Roebuck recalled his family's strong ties to the
Paiewonskys. "He was a young man I admired very much. His father and his
Uncle Ralph were very close to my family and my father. I really express
my condolences to his mother and father. I know they are ailing now, and
this must be an added burden for them."

      Senate President David Jones in a release Thursday
afternoon said Paiewonsky's "business acumen coupled with a strong
desire to do his part in making the Virgin Islands politically
self-sufficient made him a formidable senator."

      Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards in his capacity as acting
governor said in a release that Paiewonsky "left a unique and
appreciable legacy in Virgin Islands history" and that his "continued
interest in good government and his thoughtful and insightful
suggestions remained a constant to many of his former colleagues."

      (On Friday, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, in a release from
Washington, D.C., stated that Paiewonsky as a member of the Board of
Education for more than a decade "introduced many ideas to empower the
board to effectively assist in the betterment of the education system."
Also, the governor stated, Paiewonsky "always said that Virgin Islanders
had the talent and the ability to run their own affairs.")

      Sen. Roosevelt David, also in a release, called
Paiewonsky "a man of great historical knowledge, artistic intellect and
community activism" who "made significant contributions to this
community." He "made an impact throughout the globe with his printing
business and throughout this territory with his art collection."

      David said that Paiewonsky "would donate prints to
schools at the request of any teacher. He decorated territorial school
walls with the works of Camille Pissarro, Fritz Melbe [a traveling
companion of the young Pissarro] and other aspiring artists that started
their painting careers here."

      Paiewonsky is the author of "Conquest of Eden:1493-1515:
other voyages of Columbus, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Virgin
Islands," published in 1999 by MAPes MONDe. He more recently published
the compiled correspondence of the U.S. and Danish governments leading
up to the transfer of sovereignty of the Danish West Indies to the
United States in 1917.
     Funeral services are pending.


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