Posted on January 26, 2019
With profound sadness, Paul Zygielbaum, a dear friend, ardent ADAO supporter, courageous Mesothelioma Warrior, and dedicated ban asbestos activist, passed away on Friday with his family by his side.
For more than a decade, Paul was a fierce advocate and a longtime volunteer for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), acting as the State Leadership Team Western Region Co-Director for many years. Since his 2004 diagnosis with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, Paul and his wife, Michelle, have become activists in grass-roots campaigns to ban asbestos, to protect the rights of asbestos-related disease victims and their families, and to improve medical treatment and seek cures. Through this work, Paul served as a source of support, inspiration, and hope for so many in the Mesothelioma Warrior community and ADAO family.
Paul’s career as an executive and entrepreneur spans the aerospace, electric utility, electronic communications and medical device industries. He earned master’s degrees in engineering and applied science from the California Institute of Technology and in business administration from Golden Gate University. Paul has published technical papers, articles and reviews in the fields of aerospace research, energy technology, and medicine.
While personal experience motivated Paul to fight hard for the asbestos victim community, he served in many community and professional volunteer capacities. He was very involved in political activism, and his genuine spirit and positive disposition made him fast friends with a number of important players in the Democratic Party. Paul was absolutely selfless in the energy and time he was willing to dedicate to the causes and organizations he stood behind. He and his wife Michelle were awarded ADAO’s Tribute of Hope Award at our 2007 Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference, and Paul spoke at our 2016 conference. ADAO dedicated our 8th Congressional Staff Briefing to Paul in honor of his work.
We didn’t just work together, we shared many special life moments. I remember like it was yesterday when Paul shared wonderful details about their National Geographic world trip. Paul had many talents, one of his extraordinary talents was writing. Whether it was a technical piece, how to be an impactful leader, or travel blogs, Paul shared his knowledge and experiences like no one else I’ve ever known. We had a wonderful and dear friendship. Paul and Michelle met Alan and together we shared Bat Mitzvahs, births, milestone birthdays, and of course, good wine. I thought of Paul as a brother and trusted confidant.
In his Share Your Story submission, Paul let the reader into his work and passion.
“My illness has affected my entire family and my outlook on life. I savor every moment with my friends and loved ones, and every opportunity to do something good in the world. I work to stay educated on the disease and positive in my attitude. My wife and I remain active in advocacy to stop asbestos poisoning, to improve medical treatments, and to protect the rights of patients and victims’ families. This life has chosen me, and there is no going back.”
Condolences messages have been shared from around the world.
Dr. Richard Lemen recently wrote to Paul and shared, “This is not what any of us want to hear. You are such a hero to all of us and with your encouragement and backing you have lead us in continuing our fight to conquer asbestos-related diseases. It has been a true gift to me that I have met you and seen the courage and leadership you have exhibited in all aspects of you life. Thank you my friend for all you are, all you have given and all your life has been. You will always be a hero to me and an example of how adversity can be conquered. May peace be with you, all my love for you and your family.”
Dr. Arthur Frank shared, “Paul was one of the most honest, vigorous and persistent persons I have ever known and in his concerns about asbestos and people’s well being in general I found something to be greatly admired.”
Dr. Barry Castleman reflected, “Paul may have extended his survival through his dedication to work with ADAO and his support of investigating the presence of asbestos in imported toys. He was an exemplary leader in his determination to bring some public health good from his personal tragedy.”
Marilyn Amento shared, “Paul was a man of intellect, compassion and bravery. He not only fought his own battle against asbestos-caused mesothelioma, but he and Michelle personally financed testing that revealed asbestos in children’s toys and household products. He fought for Keytruda, a promising drug that would help him and countless others overcome the incurable mesothelioma. He faced his death bravely. Paul, Rest In Peace. You’ll always be a part of the silver lining.”
On behalf of ADAO, our hearts and prayers go out to Paul’s wife, Michelle, their three children, six grandchildren, and their loved ones. And while we mourn this tragic loss of a dear friend and fierce champion, let us also give thanks for the incredible work Paul did during his time. May we hold this part of his memory close, and use it as a reminder to never stop fighting for a safer world.
In sadness and unity,