Paul N. LaFrance, former owner of the Corn Hill Cottages in Truro, died on Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023 at Regal Care in Harwich, with his daughter Marilyn by his side. The cause of death was heart failure. He was 86.
The son of Wilfred and Yvonne (Demers) LaFrance, Paul was born on Aug. 7, 1936 in New Bedford. When he was a boy, the family moved to South Windsor, Conn. where he grew up, graduating from South Windsor High School in 1954.
In 1959, Paul joined the Army, and when he came home for his first leave after basic training he married his high school sweetheart, Diane Blackmore. Subsequently, he trained as a supply clerk and was posted to Korea, where, Marilyn said, “he had a real eye-opener.” He was impressed by how people could live under such trying conditions in the years after the Korean War, and he began to dream about seeing more of the world.
After his discharge in 1961, Paul trained as a carpenter with a local builder before setting out to work independently. He and Diane built their home in South Windsor, where they lived with their four young children.
Eventually Paul and Diane found life in South Windsor less than challenging. “They wanted a different life,” Marilyn said, so when they saw an ad in Yankee magazine offering the Corn Hill Cottages for sale, they traveled to Truro and bought the property. “Their friends said they were crazy,” Marilyn added, “but they went for it anyway.”
Running the 14 cottages turned out to be harder than they had imagined; it was a year-round and more-than-full-time job, which took its toll. After six years, the couple divorced.
Paul relinquished his role in running the cottage colony but retained ownership of one cottage, which became his home for the rest of his life. But he had a dream to pursue before he settled in: to see the world.
He began his travels by hitchhiking and backpacking across the U.S. He made his way to Alaska, where he worked on a small fishing boat that was caught in a storm for days.
Undaunted, he explored the American West, traveled the Canadian Rockies in a vintage Land Rover, backpacked in New Zealand, and crewed on a sailboat in the Bahamas. Those were only “some of his adventures,” Marilyn said.
But no place compared to his beloved Corn Hill. In the early 1980s, he returned and settled down to a quieter life. He converted his summer cottage into a year-round house, worked as an independent carpenter, and spent his free days gardening, cooking gourmet dishes, walking Corn Hill Beach, and digging for littlenecks and sea clams.
Beginning in about 1993, Paul was hired by the new owners of Corn Hill Cottages to manage the property, which he did for the next 20 years, developing friendships with the cottage owners and renters that lasted the rest of his life.
“Paul’s kindness, generosity, and wicked sense of humor touched many lives,” Marilyn said.
After retiring in 2013, Paul, who had always loved animals, adopted several cats and dogs from the Carrie A. Seamen Animal Shelter in Provincetown. He asked for older animals whose owners had died. “He wanted to give each pet good final years of life,” said Marilyn.
Paul loved sitting on his deck looking toward Pamet Harbor with a cigar and a glass of red wine, visiting with friends and family. He found great joy in his daily environment: a mourning dove’s call, a family of foxes living under his house, a pair of Carolina wrens building a nest in a bird box over his outdoor chair.
Paul especially loved the fierce storms that would hit the Cape every winter. He often said, “Why would I want to live anywhere else?”
He is survived by his daughters, Marilyn Wright-Germain of Silver City, N.M. and Deborah LaFrance of Wellfleet; granddaughter Sienna Rose Wright of Albuquerque, N.M.; goddaughter Emily Bissonnette of Middlebury, Vt.; nieces Theresa LaFrance and Jeanette LaFrance; and nephew Daniel LaFrance.
Paul was predeceased by his sons, Steven LaFrance and Peter LaFrance.
Donations in Paul’s memory can be made to the Carrie A. Seamen Animal Shelter at casasanimalshelter.org, by phone at 508-487-4243 between 2 and 3 p.m., or by mail at CASAS, P.O. Box 1374, Provincetown 02657.