Remembering Gene Paleno’s Life on this “Little Blue Ball of Mud” An Obituary by Christina Paleno Ericksen

Gene Paleno grew up in the 30’s on his family’s farm near Detroit, Michigan. As a boy, he learned to drive an old Model T Ford, hauling hay and feeding the cows at dawn. Gene was the eldest of six children to Eugene and Alice Paleno, with a work ethic that was incumbent upon his role as the eldest boy. After high school he served in the US Navy during WWII, and as a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve until 1966. Gene taught school after graduating from Michigan State University in 1946. In the early 1950’s during the aerospace industry boom, the entire Paleno Family (parents, sisters, brothers, spouses, and children) packed up and moved to California. Gene was employed by Douglas Aircraft Corporation as a Commercial Artist. While with Douglas, he traveled to a Paris airport hangar to participate in a marketing demonstration. The company had him wearing a helium balloon to simulate walking on the moon. He would recall how the wind almost carried him into the busy landing path at Le Bourget Airport.

Gene raised his own family in Southern California where he began his career in art, then sales and marketing. Later in life, Paleno fell in love and married a second time to a beautiful Dixieland musician. They established a small farm in northern California and enjoyed life together for many decades until he became a widow at the age of 84. Losing his life-partner could have been a showstopper, but Gene went to work reinventing himself. He adopted Cleo the cat to keep him company and plunged forward to pursue his passion for writing science fiction. 

He would tell you he was a sign maker, an oil painter, a sculptor, mold maker, illustrator, carpenter, mason, inventor, scholar, and farmer. He was also a great philosopher which led to a great many conversations regarding life, the universe, and all the questions these inspire. 

Gene’s most significant source of pride was that of his loving children, and his many friends and community members in Lake County, California. 

Gene Paleno’s accolades include Columnist of the Witter Springs Chronicles, Author of Lake County History, Guest of Olga Steele on KPFZ 88.1 News from The Past and Voices of Lake County, Member Lake County Historical Society, Member Civil War Round Tables at the Blue Wing Hotel. He related to so many in the community, there are most likely some unintended exclusions to this list.

Gene became active on the Western Region Town Hall (Municipal Advisory Council) 

as Chair until he retired from community service at the age of 93. Gene was a Founding Board Member, Lake County Silver Foundation, where he worked closely with his dear friend Jim Steele. He became very fond of each of the board members and the community in which he served tirelessly. Be it known that Gene Paleno was motivated to fight for justice, equality, and any struggle to be won that would benefit his community, friends and family. For his contributions, Gene was a Recipient of Lake County Outstanding Senior Award in 2018. 

Gene embraced every day of his life with optimism and joy. He intentionally strived at uplifting the spirit to all he met. He would greet a stranger with, “Hello Friend.” Gene wrote stories for more than thirty years and at the age of 87 became a syndicated columnist and publisher. His popularity as a writer grew after the release of Lake County History – A Mystical Adventure in Time. A second historical non-fiction novel, The Porter Conspiracy, is a compelling saga of the Civil War. Paleno wrote and worked every day as an independent author and business owner in Lake County, California. Other books include The Wish Machine and The Partner, science fiction) and of course, Cleo Chronicles (now available at the Wasson Memorial Vet Clinic).

Quotes by Gene Paleno include, “I’m two steps ahead of whatever is behind me”, “We will be remembered for what we do after we’ve left this little blue ball of mud”, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”, “Tell the brain and the body will listen”, “God is the amalgamation of all living beings”, “Our spirits are energy, and energy cannot be destroyed”.

Gene is survived by his four children Gene Paleno III, Dolly P Riley, Christina Paleno Ericksen, and Virginia Paleno, and beloved grandchildren Vanessa Ericksen, William Riley, and Ellery Clark, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins of the Paleno Family. He is preceded in death by his younger siblings Janis Colette, Virginia Duprey, Louis Paleno, Tony Paleno, and Mary Alanson. To honor Gene’s memory, donations or contributions can be made to the Lake County Silver Foundation, and Hospice of Lake County. Love and gratitude goes out from the Paleno Family to all who were his friends, his support, his colleagues, his readers, his fans, his kind and generous caregivers, and his Lake County newspapers. 

The family will share a private memorial when the Covid surge has subsided. We humbly ask that Gene’s community continue to remember him as in the past several weeks; comfort each other and celebrate his contributions to our lives on this little blue mud ball. 

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