An inspiration, a role model, a star student, an activist, a loving brother, son, grandchild, and best friend of many. The friends, family, advisers, and professors of Tim Padulsky, CSOM ’09, all remember the enormous smile, warm heart, and unrelenting positive spirit that the 20-year-old boy had before his life was cut short on Sunday.
In July of 2006, only two months after completing his freshman year at Boston College, Tim was diagnosed with leukemia, and therefore could not return to school in September. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in the fall of 2006, followed by a second transplant in which his older sister, Kristen, was the bone marrow donor. A year later, Tim returned to BC for what would have been his junior year, where he continued taking business classes, spending time with his friends, and throwing himself into his extracurricular activities.
Once first semester ended, however, Tim was unable to return to BC due to a continuation of medical problems. With time, additional complications arose, yet after nearly six weeks, Tim woke up even when the doctors said they thought he would not. Due to a recurrence of the leukemia, Tim returned to the Tufts Medical Center Floating Children’s Hospital this summer to pursue the possibility of a third bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, the leukemia was more advanced than anyone had expected, and around 4 a.m. Sunday, Tim passed away at the age of 20.
The overwhelming attendance at the wake, funeral, and burial was not surprising, given that Tim had an ability to make friends everywhere he went. Speakers at the funeral included Michael, his youngest brother; Mer Ursula Zovko, director of the Emerging Leader Program (ELP); his grandfather; Jenny Roberts, CSOM ’09; Andrea, a family friend from home; Brian, his cousin; Kim, a nurse from the hospital; and Kristen, his older sister.
Following the funeral, friends and family members gathered at the cemetery, sang “Amazing Grace,” and listened to a speech from Tim’s father, Robert Padulsky.
Fr. Richard McGowan, who had been very close with Tim during his time at BC and throughout his hospital stays, closed the ceremony with an “Our Father,” blessing the grave while everyone held hands and remembered the Tim they had loved so dearly.
Tim entered BC in 2005 eager to excel in the classroom and through a number of extra-curricular activities. As valedictorian of his high school class, Tim received early acceptance to BC, the only school to which he applied.
His first taste of freshman year was through the ELP, where he met a number of his closest friends. Through the guidance of Zovko and McGowan, Tim quickly put one of his many great ideas into action, starting the Rotaract group on campus as a freshman. Zovko reflected on Tim’s constant passion and drive.
“He couldn’t have been more understanding and polite and just … so willing to do whatever was necessary in order to make it happen. The fact that he went through the process so seamlessly really made me step back, take a look at him, and think, ‘You know, he is going to be a mover and a shaker on BC’s campus,'” Zovko said.
In addition to continuing with Rotaract, had Tim returned to BC this fall, he would have been a facilitator for ELP, one of the goals he had set for himself during his freshman year.
Tim is also remembered for his incessantly positive attitude toward life. “He just found his way into my heart,” Zovko said. “He had an uncanny ability – even before his cancer came on – to look at life in the bigger scheme of things, to focus on the things that were worth focusing on, and to just let go and not waste a lot of energy with things that many of us fret over.”
McGowan echoed these sentiments, complimenting Tim for his appreciation of life and his ability to truly live out the phrase Carpe Diem. ”
As a professor, sometimes you need students who remind you of that,” McGowan said. “When people say a professor learns from their students, it’s true. Tim was all about action, and a joyful person. It’s what the world really needs, that’s the great loss.”
Natalie Dale, CSOM ’09, shared a similar perspective. “Tim has inspired me to always look on the bright side and be happy, no matter what else is going on in life,” she said.
Tim’s positive attitude continued even throughout his illness. “When you look over the two and a half years that he had this God-awful illness, for a person his age … the way he handled it, I’ve never heard him complain, never asking ‘Why did God to do this to me?’ That’s remarkable,” McGowan said.
At Tim’s funeral Wednesday morning, Jenny Roberts spoke about Tim’s selflessness, even when his illness peaked. “No matter what was going on in anyone’s life, he cared more about what you were doing than what he was doing,” Roberts said.
Tim’s friends and family believe that he extracted every bit out of life that he possibly could. Roberts remembered, “First semester of junior year, he was so sick, but he was going to class every day that he could, going to football games, trying to enjoy life as much as he could for the short 20 years he had.”
It is no wonder that several friends of Tim mentioned his motivational outlook, his magnetic personality, and his contagious spirit.
In his time at BC, Tim inspired positive change among his friends. Anthony Bova, A&S ’09, said that Tim always wanted everyone to be sure to spend their lives doing what they wanted to do rather than what other people expected.
“He wanted to be a life coach, he was really good at talking, really good at listening; he wanted to make sure people knew that even when things got hard, it was ok – there were always friends and someone to reach out to in a time of need,” Bova said. “He truly appreciated people for what they were, and I find that to be admirable.”
Vanessa Flavin, A&S ’09, said she remembers Tim for his dedication, strength, intelligence, and uplifting sense of humor. “He was always laughing or knew where to find the laughter in any situation; he could always see the lighter side of things,” she said.
Tim’s family was a source of strength for him. “His family is remarkable,” said Paul Chebator, senior associate dean for student development. “The dedication his family had to him is just amazing, his siblings as well as his parents.”
Tim had two brothers – Michael, a sophomore at Woburn Memorial High School, Stephen, a freshman at BC, and a sister, Kristen, who graduated CSON ’08, and is in a two-year graduate nursing program at BC.
Speaking about Tim’s final weeks, Kristen said, “We were so blessed to have that time with him to share with him and each other. He and God did that for us to give us that peace at the end of Tim’s life. He was able to respond to people even on his last days. What a blessing.” At the funeral, Kristen spoke about a dream one of Tim’s doctors had on Friday evening. In the dream, Tim told the doctor that he was waiting until his mother gave him permission to go. Saturday was Mary Padulsky’s birthday. The following day, Tim passed away.
Unjustly forced into a debilitating illness, Tim was always smiling, laughing, and working to pursue his goals, even when the leukemia worsened.
“I think the biggest honor everyone could give him would be to keep smiling,” Flavin said. He touched lives at BC, in Woburn, and everywhere else his life took him. A natural leader and activist, Tim always sought to help and look after those around him. “I look forward to him being in my circle of guardian angels,” Zovko said. His memory will live on. Keep smiling down on us, Tim. We’re smiling back.