Paul Spaulding, 71, died the night of Jan. 31 when his Hampden home caught fire. Credit: Courtesy Laura Spaulding

Paul Spaulding was a talented sculptor who combined his love of art and history to make realistic busts of historical figures, including Civil War generals. He was also a lover of Beethoven and Cuban cigars, and simply a good human being, according to his sister and a close friend.

Spaulding was found dead in the remains of his Hampden home on Kennebec Road after a fire broke out there around 10:30 p.m. Monday. He was 71.

Spaulding was easy to like and get along with, his younger sister, Laura Spaulding, said Tuesday.

“He liked everybody, and everybody liked him,” she said.

Laura Spaulding said she shared her brother’s interest in history, which they picked up from their father while growing up in Tennessee.

She remembered family trips to Civil War battlefields. Paul’s first sculpture was a life-sized bust of Abraham Lincoln that he made when he was in sixth grade.

Paul went to art school after high school and got a degree, then took his life in a direction that surprised his family when he was 29 or 30, his sister said. He joined the Army to become a paratrooper.

“We’re a family of pacifists,” said Laura Spaulding, who lives in Kentucky. “My mother and father worked in the civil rights movement and were against Vietnam. And then, we just kind of accepted it, that it was what he wanted to do.”

Joining the Army was important to Paul, his sister said. It was a way to prove himself after a childhood in which he was stricken with polio as a 5-year-old, she said. It nearly paralyzed him and left one leg shorter than the other.

Paul also joined the Army at an older-than-usual age. He was the oldest man in his company of the 82nd Airborne Division, and everyone called him “pops,” his sister said.

After he left the Army, anytime a member of his company died, he sculpted a tile with the symbol of the 82nd Airborne Division to be given to family members, Laura Spaulding said.

He moved to Maine in 1990 and to the Bangor area in 1994. He told The Weekly in 2004, in an article highlighting his series of sculptures of Civil War generals, that he found sculpture more rewarding than drawing.

Spaulding’s studio “was almost like his own little world,” said Michelle Aquitana Byram, a neighbor who was a teenager when she met Paul Spaulding and worked in his studio after school. “You’d walk into the studio and he’d be working on incredible sculptures and listening to classical music and he was such a great storyteller.”

She quickly became close to her first boss, and they continued to be friends over the years.

Byram said she remembered working with him in his studio, with Beethoven — his favorite — playing in the background. She also recalled visiting him at home with, again, classical music playing in the background and Spaulding sitting in a chair smoking cigars and sipping bourbon.

Spaulding didn’t see much conflict while in the military, but he was deployed to Grenada during the U.S. invasion there in 1983, his sister said.

He told a story of confiscating all the Cuban cigars — then prohibited in the U.S. — from the Cuban embassy there, Laura Spaulding said.

Sculptor Paul Spaulding with some of his creations, including these bas-reliefs of Civil War heroes J.E.B. Stuart and Joshua Chamberlain. Credit: John Clarke Russ / BDN

“My brother had this almost, like, code of honor about how you conducted and behaved,” she said. “But he could also raise some hell.”

He was also a gentleman — kind, respectful and well spoken, Laura Spaulding said.

“He was genuinely a wonderful person and a great brother,” she said.

While Laura Spaulding had not seen her brother in Maine for some time, she said his house was something that will always stick out in her mind. He loved the property and had it arranged like a museum.

“It was like the house itself was like a work of art,” she said. “It was like a total expression of who he was.”

Laura said she’ll remember her brother as someone who was true to himself, and she hopes others will remember him that way, too.

“There’s nothing artificial about him. Nothing,” she said. “There was nothing phony. He was just one of those people who was just so genuinely themselves, and in this delightful kind of way.

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...