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Entering this world on Jan. 3, 1978, in Spokane, Washington, Paul Sweeny ’00 was the first of three sons born to Kevin and Donna Sweeny. A few months after birth, Paul and his parents moved to Seattle, Washington, where he would spend his first four years before the family moved to Modesto, California. It was in Modesto that Paul began to shine in school and athletics. He made friends easily and enjoyed his life in the sun and on the little league baseball fields of California, where he showed his energetic personality and natural athletic ability. After sixth grade, his family moved back to Spokane, but Paul vowed one day he would return to California. In Spokane, Paul attended All Saints Catholic Middle School and Gonzaga Preparatory School, where he excelled in academics and sports, grew to a towering 6 feet 4 inches, and developed what would become his lifelong friendships. Upon his high school graduation, Paul cemented his promise to return to California and attended Santa Clara University where he tried out for the basketball team and made it as a walk-on his first year, followed by a partial scholarship as a sophomore. Paul loved basketball, and because of his fortitude and perseverance in the sport, learned many valuable lessons that served him throughout his life. After graduating with a major in English and a minor in journalism, Paul’s love of writing took him to New York City to work for CBS News, first as an intern and then as an associate producer for 48 Hours Investigates. He relished his time in New York and took in all the city had to offer as a bright, young 23-year-old. Paul was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came crashing down, and he worked ceaselessly to cover the breaking news while witnessing the frightening and gut-wrenching reality of the city’s attack.
After living in New York, Paul moved back West and tried his hand in the entertainment industry in and around San Francisco and then in Los Angeles. One of his favorite stories was about a chance meeting with Judd Apatow at a farmer’s market where Paul was selling cherries. Equipped with charisma and confidence, Paul approached Apatow about his desire to work in the film industry, and their conversation soon led to an interview in Mr. Apatow’s limousine, followed by a job videotaping behind-the-scenes footage on the film Super Bad and others. Working in LA was a fun and exciting time in Paul’s life, but eventually the pragmatist in him yearned for stability and steady employment; he soon accepted a position as group sales representative at Metropolitan Life, which took him to Boise, Idaho for training. Merely a month after moving to Boise, his 28-year-old brother, Brian, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Three months after that, defying statistical chance, Paul was also diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 29. He took this challenge as he had every other challenge in his life, and that was with an iron will, positivity, and determination that his diagnosis was not going to get the best of him.
After surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation in Spokane, he went back to Boise to finish his training and then on to Seattle, Washington, to pursue his new career. He excelled at Met Life and worked there until April 2014, when he landed his most sought-after job with Delta Dental of Washington in Spokane as a senior account executive. Upon his return to Spokane, he bought a house he loved and met and fell in love with Meagan Ciesla, a beautiful young woman both inside and out. She gave him even more of a reason to keep on fighting and she took on the challenge with fervor. Together they never gave up hope and in the end of his life she comforted him with tenderness and loving care. We will be forever grateful that he found such love in his lifetime. Paul was a very loving and devoted brother to his two brothers, Brian and Kyle. He had an especially significant bond to Brian who predeceased him four years ago on June 29, 2013. Even though they experienced similar journeys, Paul was always more concerned for Brian than for himself. During Brian’s last months of life Paul drove from Seattle to Spokane every weekend to help his brother get through his last days. It was difficult for Paul to see his brother’s decline knowing he might follow a similar path, but his love for Brian surpassed his own fears.
Paul left this world and all who loved him on July 10 surrounded by his family and girlfriend after a valiant 10-year battle with brain cancer. His competitive spirit—whether he was playing basketball or Yahtzee, his favorite board game—will never be forgotten. He was positive, happy, fun loving, and always excited about life. He was also articulate, loved language, and was not one to avoid a debate, which at times was exasperating. He had a twinkle in his eye and a bit of mischievousness about him; both got him into trouble at times, but more often than not, his antics would make you smile and shake your head.
His parents, Kevin and Donna Sweeny, his brother, Kyle Sweeny, and his girlfriend, Meagan Ciesla, all of Spokane, survive Paul. Aunts and uncles Sharron Quigley, Mary Saad (Paul), Joanne Sweeny (Les Benoy), Patrice Sweeny (Mike Carper), Margaret Malloy, Suzanne Sweeny, Janice Winninghoff (Jack), Dennis Sweeny, Dick, Lee (Sherrie Holland), John, Frank, and Bob (Mary) Urbaniak also survive him. Paul’s family is comforted knowing he has been reunited with his brother, Brian, his grandparents, Raymond and Gladys Urbaniak, Jerome and Lillian Sweeny, and with our loving Father. His family also has so much gratitude for Dr. Kirk Lund and all the nurses and staff at the Rockwood Cancer Treatment Center who took exceptional care of Paul. Most have journeyed with the family for 10 years and two sons, making what has been unbearable almost bearable. Paul’s family is also grateful for the wonderful nurses and staff at Hospice of Spokane in-home hospice care and Hospice House, where Paul lived out his final month of life.