California man’s wish to ride waves again granted

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — For more than 40 years, Paul Solomon surfed the waves in California and Hawaii, but a stroke three years ago forced him out of the water.

Then a few months ago he met Judy Lucous, a wish-granter who helped make his dream of returning to the water come true. Recently, Solomon, 67, spent an hour circling the Oceanside Harbor seated in a wheelchair on a modified paddleboard, an experience he said was better than he imagined.

“It was fabulous,” said Solomon, a resident of Cypress Court, a senior living center in Escondido. “I haven’t had the opportunity to be out on the water in a long, long time, and it just felt great to feel it underneath me again.”

Solomon is the latest recipient of Cypress Court’s Dreams Do Come True program, which employee Lucous came up with two years ago when Norma Jones, a resident on hospice, said she had just one item left on her bucket list before she died.

“She had always loved to shop, and she just wanted to go shopping one last time,” said Lucous, the center’s assistant wellness director.

So, with the permission of Jones’ family and doctors, Lucous took her to the Westfield North County mall, where they rode the glass elevator, had a treat at the See’s Candies shop and Jones bought a few items of clothing at the J.C. Penney store. She died two months later.

“I’ll never forget the look on Norma’s face when they came back that day. She was so happy,” said Donna Daniel-Herr, the center’s executive director. “It was so incredible and inspiring, and it’s a tribute to Judy, who has the biggest heart.”

The second wish was granted earlier this year, when resident Lea Miyashiro, 83, told Lucous she always wanted to ride in a hot-air balloon. Because Miyashiro uses a walker and balloons can land miles from the nearest road, they opted to take a safer route in fulfilling her request. On Feb. 6, Miyashiro rose 400 feet into the air in a tethered helium balloon ride at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

In the coming months, Lucous said she hopes to grant the wish of resident Mabel Smith, who is in her 90s and wants to go parasailing. She’s also working on a request from a woman who would like to ride the train up to San Juan Capistrano to see the return of the swallows to the city’s mission.

Lucous joined the center’s staff 12 years ago and said that in her work planning activities and outings, she gets to know the residents very well. Her own mother lived at the center until her death in April at the age of 95.

“I spend more time with the residents than with my own family, so when you’re around people all the time, you get to know their hopes and dreams,” Lucous said. “What I’ve discovered is the things they wish for are so simple, so why not do what we can to make their wishes come true?”

Solomon, a retired sprinkler fitter, grew up in Monterey County and lived in the San Diego area from the 1970s to the mid-1990s before he moved full time to the Big Island of Hawaii. There he was an active surfer, rower and swimmer until his stroke, which paralyzed his left side and caused a brain injury. Jesse Solomon, the eldest of Solomon’s three children, said he convinced his dad in January to move back to the mainland where he could be closer to Jesse, his wife, Natali, and their children, who live in Carlsbad.

Jesse said his father was heartbroken to leave Hawaii and water sports behind, but since Lucous promised to grant his wish earlier this year, “my dad has been so excited by the opportunity.”

To make Solomon’s dream come true, Lucous contacted Pushing 4 Independence, a North County nonprofit that offers adults with disabilities free water experiences on an Ability Board, a modified paddleboard with stabilizing pontoons that can accommodate a wheelchair.

At 10:20 a.m. last Monday, Pushing4Independence volunteer Scott Brown strapped Solomon into a sports wheelchair on the Ability Board, and they quickly pushed off, with Brown pushing from behind while rowing his own paddleboard. Jesse and his family ran along the shore watching Solomon out on the water.

“It’s so great to see him out there,” Jesse said. “He’s looking at all the boats and the sea lions. He seems really happy.”

After they returned, Pushing4Independence founder Shad Eischen told the family he’d like to arrange a follow-up surfing jaunt to San Onofre, where Solomon can get even closer to the water on a two-seat board. Solomon said he’s up for the challenge.

“I can’t wait to get out on the water again,” he said.