In the summer of 2018, Paul Daniel Koors’s life was looking pretty good. Having finished his residency, the 38-year-old ear, nose and throat surgeon had just moved his young family to Connecticut where he began a new job with a practice that met his desire for public service. A talented singer and guitarist, Paul had also just finished recording his second album of original songs. His wife Liz got a job at the school where their kids would go, and both sets of grandparents and a host of old friends were close by. His ENT specialty had been a long, hard road, but now everything seemed to be falling nicely into place.
On August 29, early into a workout at the gym, Paul collapsed suddenly and could not be revived. His aorta had ruptured. To everyone who knew him — a kind, capable, talented and fit man in the prime of life — it was a huge shock. In addition to leaving behind a loving family a many friends, he also left a collection of songs that gives us clues into what drove him, and what was on his mind. Oddly, his legacy weighed heavily on him, even at that young age. Many of his songs are auto-biographical, and tell of his struggles to find himself and transcend his challenges, while others use fictional characters to tell his story. All of them explore what it means to be a man, in work, character, deeds and love. He was always taking stock.
“The measure of a man is the love that’s in his hands.”
from “When I’m Long and Gone”
The only child of professional parents in the New York City suburbs, Paul wanted for little growing up. Things came easily to him. He taught himself the guitar, and did well enough in school, but he had a hard time finding direction. He left Bucknell University after a year and moved out to Minnesota, where he worked construction for a large carpentry company. It was back-breaking work in sub-zero weather at times, and he knew it wasn’t the path he’d ultimately take…
“Well I broke my back on job sites across Minnesota, and I swung my hammer, with an anger to rival the gods
I toiled in the heat and the cold that can bite you like vipers and I waited for a change, despite near impossible odds…”
from “Make a Man”
He returned to New York, explored learning to be a chef, and even a fireman, inspired by his cousins who had answered that call during 9/11. But then, seemingly out of the blue, he decided on medicine, enrolling at Brooklyn College to study biology and chemistry, earning the organic chemistry award. During this time, he met his future wife Liz, and this, according to his family, had a profound motivating effect on him.
“When I was young, blind as a bat, wandering aimless, never on track,
then came a day where everything changed a new kind of beauty, simple and strange…”
from “The World’s First Sunrise”
He buckled down and got into Medical School at MCV in Richmond, Virginia, where his mother, Pat Koors, a pediatrician in New York, had been one of only eight women in her class. He and Liz had a daughter and son. He finished his residency at the University of Virginia, and should have enjoyed a long career, with the promise of helping improve others' hearing through surgery, raising two happy kids, and spending decades married to the woman he knew to be his perfect life partner. So many people lost something when we lost Paul.
“I’ve made every damn mistake that a man can make,
But there’s one thing in this life that I got right, and that was you.”
—“A Sane Woman”
Service was important to him. While in college Paul travelled to Calcutta, where he spent some time at Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying, and he taught in the New York Catskill Mountains children and adults with disabilities how to ski. He even swung his hammer again after Hurricane Katrina as a volunteer in New Orleans.
For all his talents, Paul was a humble guy, and being a surgeon wasn’t easy. He struggled with the intensity of it, and like anyone might, wondered if he was up to the task.
“Where the hell do I belong,
Well I know it ain’t here, it ain’t now, it ain’t this.
Something else must exist.”
He sang about struggling to overcome his doubts, and he seemed highly aware of the fragility of life, and felt a keen desire to appreciate what had been given to him.
Please don’t let me fall before I’ve had my chance to realize all the blessings in disguise…”
Paul only performed his music publicly a few times, and most of the songs on his new album have never been performed. It was a dream of his to be a singer and guitarist, and one that had been with him since his early days when he began to learn to play his grandmother’s old organ at age six, and studied trumpet at the Julliard weekend school. Writing songs gave him a great way to explore his life, and the honesty of his reflections and the circumstances of his death are inescapably ironic…
“All of my life I’ve been free to do what I want.
All of these gifts thrown to me were taken for naught.
Take things for granted they won’t last long.
One day you’ll wake up and find them gone, baby, gone…”
—“Gone, Baby, Gone”
Our hope is that by sharing his music through this foundation, we can appreciate Paul’s unique gifts, and make sure his insights and tuneful melodies have a chance to be heard. We’ve released his recordings, and put together a band to play them, to raise money for aortic dissection medical research that could help the next Paul Koors avoid leaving the world so suddenly, and also to support music education, specifically in song-writing, so that the next budding singer, guitarist and wordsmith, finds their way to the microphone…
Thank you for reading,
The Paul Koors Memorial Foundation