A close friend, Josh Eras, met Paulson when the two were in second grade at St. Raphael Archenzell Elementary School in South St. Louis, where Paulson’s mother, Sue Paulson, was a teacher.
Paulson was always surrounded by firefighters through his father, whom he always admired, Eras said. Father and son often went fishing trips.
“He was naturally smart and good at school, but I think becoming a firefighter was always in the back of his head,” Eras said. “When we were kids, he was always in a St. Louis fire hat and jacket.”
Aras recalls that when his class chose his religious names for Catholic affirmation, Paulson chose Saint Florian, the patron saint of firefighters.
‘Very real people’
“Since we were kids, he was a very real person,” Aras said. “But he who was with you made you feel like a special person, a true friend.”
Paulson also had a party life, even in middle school and high school, where he would take part in dance wars whenever he had the chance, said his longtime friend Dan Barraco. He met Paulson when he was 12 years old.
“We’ll always egg him,” Barraco said. “He used to act shy like ‘No, you guys’ but then he walks to the moon in the middle of the circle.”