Obituary of a long term Chiang Mai resident

By | Mon 23 Nov 2020

A popular and well-known member of the expat community here in Chiang Mai, Paul Schoenkopf, unfortunately passed away here on November 19th at the age of 80.

Paul had a colourful life and employment history in America, having run a company which supplied parts for imported cars, particularly Citroens. He owned many interesting cars over the years, Citroens of course, but also a new Jaguar E-type and an Aston Martin DB5 (the car James Bond is famous for driving, although I don’t think Paul’s had machine guns…). This latter car, which would now be rather valuable, he wrote off in an accident. He used older forms of transport also – he liked to recount his life and adventures on a boat in San Francisco Bay, or living in Marin County, north of San Francisco, where he kept a horse to get to town.

He moved to Chiang Mai about two decades ago. For several years, he volunteered as an English teacher at local colleges and universities. He also supported several charities in Chiang Mai, particularly helping provide wheelchairs to the disabled.

In later years, and for a sustained period, he instigated and ran three sub-groups of the CM Expatriate Club. These were the dance film nights; the gay film nights; and the dining-out group. The film nights were held at his downtown home, and each screening was followed by a lively and friendly discussion over tea.

He endeavoured to find a different restaurant for each fortnightly meeting of his dining-out group, which was always a pleasant and convivial gathering, offering the opportunity for new residents of Chiang Mai to meet some old-timers, and which often provided a chance for people to try somewhere new for dinner.

Paul was famous for his annually-recurring 39th birthday parties, always lively events which attracted a large attendance. They were never held on his actual birthday of course and participants suspected his age might be more than advertised…

In Chiang Mai, Paul met K. Nop, the love of his life. They lived together from the very first day they met, more than a decade ago. A few years ago they got married in the US.

Paul contracted chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cancer about three years ago. At first he was reluctant to have chemo treatment. But just as soon as treatment started, the colour returned to his cheeks and he seemed to rally. He continued foreign travel with friends. For some years, he and Nop had been staying in Dalat in Vietnam during the annual smoky season here. They even moved there last year for its fine weather, but they missed Chiang Mai and decided to return.

Rounds of chemotherapy treatment made him feel worse, so it was discontinued. The last four months have been a struggle, but still with its brighter spots. It was touching for Paul’s friends (of which category we were thankful to be included) to note the devoted and tireless care that Nop, helped particularly by his brother K. Nook, gave to Paul in his last illness.

In all this, Paul – ably assisted by Nop – provided a valued community service, and as such he was an exemplar of an actively-contributing member of the expat. community of Chiang Mai. He donated his body to Chiang Mai University Hospital to help in the education of medical students, so there will be no funeral service. We are left with our memories—he will be much-missed.