Waff remembered as biz visionary, community leader
By Miles Layton
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
EDENTON — Paul Waff, who died Sunday, is being remembered by Chowan County officials, friends and citizens as a visionary businessman and generous and effective community leader.
Waff, president of Waff Contracting, died at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital after suffering a stroke while visiting the Outer Banks. He was 65.
“I can't believe he is gone,” Edenton Town Manager Anne-Marie Knighton said in a tear-strained voice Monday. “I'm going to miss him. He's done so much for everyone, for Chowan County, for Edenton.”
Chowan Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeff Smith, who grew up with Waff in Chowan, called him “a great guy (who) ... would do anything to help you out.”
“He was just an asset to all northeast North Carolina. He's really going to be missed,” Smith said.
Waff’s company, Waff Contracting of Edenton, is known across the region for its commercial and industrial work, specializing in pile driving and marine construction. Among its numerous projects, the company used pieces from the former Chowan River Bridge to build the marina at Edenton’s Colonial Park. Waff Contracting also built Wharf Landing, a local marina and townhouse complex.
David Phelps, who worked with Waff for many years, called him “a great guy” and “a visionary.”
“People would call people like him grassroots. I call him homegrown because he loved Edenton and Chowan County where he grew up,” Phelps said.
Perhaps Waff Contracting's best known project was the relocation of the Roanoke River Lighthouse from its secluded Filberts Creek location by barge across the Albemarle Sound to its permanent home at Colonial Park.
“He does construction work that very few people know how to do and he does it with the greatest of skill,” recalled Charlie Creighton, a longtime friend. “It's hard to imagine how he does the things he does — marine construction and all kinds of unusual construction. It's one thing to build a house, its another to move bridges and drive pilings. That's very hard work and very dangerous work — it always amazes me to see the things that he's done.”
Because of Waff’s expertise, Knighton said she often sought Waff's advice on the town’s capital projects.
“When I would get something from a contractor seeking to build this or that, I'd check it out with Paul,” she said. “Sometimes, he'd study the project and come up with a way to do it better and make it less expensive for the town. I'm going to miss his advice.”
Recently, Waff Contracting was handling the renovation work to the Taylor Theater building on Edenton’s Broad Street.
With sadness in his voice, Creighton, president of Colony Tire, recalled that he just met with Waff on Thursday to discuss the theater building work.
“Edenton will never replace Paul Waff,” he said. “We will miss him forever.”
Edenton Mayor Roland Vaughan said he had known Waff for probably 30-40 years, but had come to know him even better in recent years after Waff and his wife Ginny moved to the neighborhood where Vaughan and his wife live.
Vaughan said he would always remember how Waff rose to the occasion and provided sorely needed help to Edenton in aftermath of Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
“We were on our own for the first 48 hours after the hurricane, and I'll always remember how Paul was out in the street moving debris so that people, and the crews from the town, could get around," the mayor said. "He was one of the most valuable assets we had during that time.”
Vaughan said his admiration for Waff only deepened in the years since.
“He's always been a go-to guy,” the mayor said. “It's hard to imagine a day without Paul's presence. He was always there for the town and the community at large, and always responded in whatever way he could when he was needed.”
Like he did the aftermath of Isabel, Waff also helped neighbors in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Waff went out while heavy winds were still howling to clear streets of debris.
“It was still raining and the storm was still with us, but that didn't stop Paul from going out and helping,” Knighton said. “He was the first one on the ground clearing stuff.”
Chowan County Sheriff Dwayne Goodwin recalled the mess left in Matthew’s wake — and Waff’s role in helping clear it away.
“Paul said he didn't mind cleaning the streets. He was instrumental in clearing the streets,” he said.
Goodwin said whenever the sheriff's department needed heavy equipment, Waff didn't hesitate to offer his help.
“I'm still kind of shock that Paul's gone,” he said. “There's so much that man has done for Edenton and Chowan County. He provided the equipment without hesitation. He always came through. It will be a different place without him.”
A memorial service for Waff will be held at Edenton United Methodist Church, Friday at 11 a.m. A visitation with Waff’s family will be held at Miller Funeral Home and Crematory at 735 Virginia Road, Edenton, Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Miller Funeral Home and Crematory is handling arrangements.