Paul Gross was a Boonville original. He was born September 29, 1924, in the old Victorian farm house on Hwy 98, the youngest of six children. Because his two older brothers, Jim and Charlie, had been called to serve in World War II, he did not have to go to war. He lived his whole life in that old Victorian, except for 3 ½ years recently spent in the nursing home on Hwy 87. During his whole life he only left Missouri a handful of times, and that was to buy cattle in Oklahoma or Arkansas, trips Paul made with his older brother, Jim, who was also Paul’s lifelong business partner.
Paul got started working early in life raising bees for honey and trapping for furs. There is an old picture of Paul holding about 16 squirrels, and standing next to Black Snoot, his dog. Paul graduated to working the land with early model tractors. He was a hard worker, going from sun-up to sun-down and sometimes longer.
Paul’s work ethic -- so extreme that it left little time for anything else – combined with Jim’s business savvy, led over time to the partners’ owning a number of farms in both the river bottom and hill country. Their achievement came not only from hard work and insight, but to the kind of penny pinching people acquired during the Great Depression when Paul’s father – Bernard J. Gross – only avoided losing the farm by a hair’s breadth. Jim and Paul were famous for eating baloney or ham between white bread with no mayonnaise, mustard, butter or anything else. As they split all business expenses 50/50, deciding ‘who paid the odd cent’ always required some negotiation!
Paul had a certain genius for the local vernacular. Getting hurt was being “boggered up.” When Paul caught a possum eating out of the cat’s bowl, “That skunk backed on out lookin’ awful guilty.” One of the funniest incidents I ever witnessed was when a geriatric doctor recently asked Paul if he were depressed. “Depressed!” replied Paul, “Hey-ell no, I’m one of the happiest men I know! Ain’t nobody got so good a life as me.”
Paul’s life was like a rainbow. When conditions were “just-right” in the hollers, fields, creeks, and woods around Boonville and when “just the right numbers” of raccoons, possums, squirrels, skunks, minks and groundhogs were in those hollers, creeks, fields and woods, then Paul emerged. And when conditions changed enough and things were no longer “just right”, Paul faded away. Indeed, a splendid rainbow appeared in just right conditions, after a powerful spring storm over the nursing home on Hwy 87, where Paul rested in Hospice care.
Paul was preceded in death by his older brothers Charlie and Jim, and by his three older sisters Kathleen, Mildred, and Louise who married Richard E. Usher. Paul is survived by Richard and Louise’s two sons (Steve and Mike) and their two daughters (Christine Lower and Carol Roman) and by four great nephews (Patrick Lower, Will Usher, Christopher Roman and Nico Roman) two great nieces (Sarah Lower-Rolfus and Katherine Usher-Saunders), and by a great-great nephew and a great-great niece (Henry Rolfus and Clare Rolfus).
Paul is a descendant of Peter Peck, who came from pioneer stock, and who was killed in the Civil War. His maternal grandmother was Mary Ann Stoecklein who emigrated from Germany in 1873, along with her infant daughter, Marie Barbara, who grew up to become Paul’s mother. Paul’s father was Bernard J. Gross who drove the big steam locomotives across the Rocky Mountains in his younger years, and then settled to a life of farming in the Boonville area.