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1967 Paul 2020

Paul Paffendorf

October 20, 1967 — December 19, 2020

Paul Jeffrey Paffendorf died in an avalanche on December 19, 2020. He was backcountry skiing in the San Juan Mountains with his dear friend, and fellow outdoor enthusiast, Bert Perry. A force of nature in his own right, Jeff's life was defined by his inexhaustible stoke for shared adventures with family and friends. His death leaves an unfillable hole in the lives of those who survive him: his wife, Kristi, his identical twin sons, Max and Nils, his sister Deidre, her husband Phil, and his uncle Paul Paffendorf, his wife Ann, and several cousins. He is preceded in death by his parents, James and Dorothy Paffendorf.

Born on October 20, 1967, Jeff was raised in East Brunswick, New Jersey. His father and uncle introduced him to the great outdoors, fueling a passion that eventually pulled Jeff out west to the high places of Colorado, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, and beyond. Even though Jeff fell in love with the lifestyle out west, he often reminisced of big family gatherings for Christmas, his favorite holiday, and summer time spent on the Jersey Shore riding bikes and swimming with his cousins. He also had fond memories of visiting the Adirondacks where his family would frequent a cabin they built on a lake with their good friends. While growing up, he got into ski racing and spent most winter weekends traveling to ski areas in New York and Vermont.

Gifted with a scientific mind and a compassionate heart, Jeff eventually pursued a medical degree, after graduating from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Along the way, he forged powerful friendships that led to countless adventures and a life driven toward excellence in all things. He found himself back on the east coast for his residency in anesthesiology at the University of Vermont. After residency, his devotion to the mountains took him to Aspen, Colorado, and then to Durango, where he poured into his craft as an anesthesiologist at Mercy Regional Medical Center. "The Good Doctor Paffendorf" thrived in providing an exceptional level of care as a physician, inspiring deep trust and respect from his colleagues and patients alike.

Beyond the operating room, Jeff's dogged determination and inextinguishable energy drove him to the far corners of the planet. Skiing was his number one passion, inspiring numerous trips to British Columbia, France, Japan, and across the U.S. He climbed in the Andes, Alaska, Italy, Thailand, the Tetons, Yosemite, and his favorite autumn destination, Indian Creek. He also went mountain biking in Europe and Canada, and relished surfing and sailing in Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and Montauk, New York.

His volunteer efforts were felt in Kenya, Africa where he worked on a game preserve in his early twenties, to Alaska, where he promoted safe-climbing practices and assisted in life-saving rescues on Denali, to Nepal, where he administered anesthesia for cataract surgeries with the Himalayan Eye Project. After the catastrophic earthquake in 2014, he traveled to Haiti with some Mercy colleagues as part of a surgical relief mission.

Jeff's thirst for outdoor adventure and travel was matched only by his ability to nurture a network of amazing friends far and wide. His vitality was enormous, intense, and all-encompassing for anyone who came within his sphere. "Jefe" to some, "Paff" to others, "Big Country Jeff" was renowned for his horrible sense of direction and time. He was always late or lost. He'd often be late to his own backyard barbeques and dinner parties, usually because he was squeezing in a quick bike ride or running out for last minute ingredients. But his excitability and Libra charm kept everyone coming back for more.

In 2015, Jeff met the love of his life, Kristi Good. The kindred spirits shared mutual friends and many interests, and two years later, were married in Durango in the heart of the fall blaze. Jeff and Kristi welcomed identical twin boys in October 2020 and looked forward to new adventures as a family of four.

Jeff smiled, joked, and celebrated his way through a life grounded in friendships, experiences, and contributions that, together, are far richer, deeper, higher, and wilder than his 53 years could ever hold. His infectious laugh, endless stoke, and love for life will be missed dearly, and his light will shine on in his sons' eyes and smiles, and in the memories of those whose lives he touched.

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