Beloved member of Buffalo’s Hispanic Community
By: Lou Michel and Edwin Martinez
A former Buffalo City Court judge and lawyer for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Paul Volcy recalls that he was hungry for adventure at 18 years old.
He had completed one semester at the University of Puerto Rico, but studies, he said, just weren’t providing enough satisfaction for the young man who, two years earlier, had moved with his family from the rough and tumble of the South Bronx to Puerto Rico, his mother’s homeland.
“I had spent a few days in the island’s rainforest, El Yunque, and I realized I could function very well there. So I decided to join the Army and go to Vietnam, and I eventually ended up in the Vietnamese rainforest,” Volcy said.
But before heading to Southeast Asia, Volcy’s ability to speak English and Spanish attracted the attention of military brass, and he was sent to a Vietnamese language school in El Paso, Texas.
“I was there three or four months and learned to speak rudimentary Vietnamese,” he said, adding that he had also successfully attended officer candidate school.
He arrived in Vietnam as a first lieutenant in January 1969 and worked at headquarters in Saigon, serving as a liaison with members of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Soon promoted to captain, he was reassigned to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Advisory Team 7, which worked with a South Vietnamese infantry division along the Cambodian border.
“I was a troubleshooter and scrounge for the colonel in charge of the team. If we were short of supplies, then I would go to Saigon and find the right Americans in the supply system and convince them to make a special allocation,” Volcy said.
When asked how he managed to persuade the rear echelon bureaucrats to open the supply kitty, he said he had discovered their weakness for battlefield souvenirs, which, of course, they did not have direct access to.
“On my way to Saigon, there was this village, and I would have some of the villagers manufacture Viet Cong flags, and then I would say to the supply people, ‘Look, we got these flags from dead VC after a firefight. Do you want them?’ Often a flag or two would do it, and we’d get the supplies we needed.”
Sometimes, it was bandages for the team’s South Vietnamese counterparts; other times the supplies were as simple as pens and paper so that American soldiers could take notes during briefings or write home to their loved ones.
“Once I went shopping for a jeep, but I needed three North Vietnamese SKS rifles and could only get two,” Volcy recalled.
And though his duties often took him outside harm’s way, he was by no means spared the deadly realities of war.
“I would go out with a company-level advisory team. A lot of times it was into the jungles, other times rice paddy country, and we’d encounter ambush situations or sniper fire, and then there were the booby traps. We didn’t go out often after dark because [the Viet Cong] owned the night,” Volcy said.
There was also the occasional mortar and rocket fire the enemy showered on U.S. encampments.
At times out in the field, Volcy was able to put his Vietnamese language skills to work. “If we encountered local inhabitants, I would ask them if they had seen the enemy, but I never got anything of consequence, and I realized we had others with much better language skills. All of the interpreters that I ran into were Vietnamese. They were excellent.”
At the end of his yearlong tour, he was awarded the Bronze Star and soon completed his military service.
His appetite for adventure more than satisfied, he returned to the University of Puerto Rico and earned his bachelor’s degree. A year later, in 1974, he began his education to become a lawyer at the University at Buffalo Law School.
After graduation, he began practicing law in Buffalo and would soon meet his wife to be, Susan Grace Stocks, a Buffalo special-education teacher who had moved here from Greenville, N.C., and the daughter of a mother and father who had both served in the Navy during World War II.
As a community activist, Paul quickly became involved in Buffalo Hispanic community becoming a founding member of the Western New York Hispanic and friend’s civic association. An organization that worked on social justice and political empowerment of Buffalo’s growing Hispanic community.” Throw out his life time in Buffalo, Paul was a part of the fabric which helped create and lead organization that worked on education, community development, political empowerment and social justice for Buffalo’s Hispanic community, he will be missed, said Edwin Martinez”.
The Volcys raised a daughter, Suzanne, who works as a mental health counselor.
About a decade ago, then-Mayor Anthony M. Masiello appointed Volcy a City Court judge, a position he held until he ran for office and lost. Prior to that, he worked in the Buffalo Corporation Counsel’s Office for five years and then spent two years in the Attorney General’s Office.
After the election, he returned to the Attorney General’s Office, where he litigated civil cases and ultimately retired from that position last December.
When asked how he fills his days, he said, “I’m reading a lot and spending a lot of time with my wife.”
One of his goals, he says, is to put aside the memories of Vietnam.
It has proved impossible.
“I think about it every day.”
Volcy died Monday at his home from complications with cancer. Surrounded by his family.
In formation on Paul’s family and funeral arrangements can be found below:
VOLCY - Honorable Paul February 23, 2015, beloved husband of Susan Stocks Volcy; devoted father of Michelle (Christopher) Thorpe of Lancaster, SC, Paul (Nicole) Volcy of Miami, FL, and Suzanne (Michael) Smith; loving grandfather of Isabella and Olivia Thorpe; dear brother of Yves (Marie) Volcy, Carole (Edna Feighner) Volcy and Charles (Wendy) Volcy; uncle of many nieces and nephews. The family will receive friends at the C. Mertz and Son Funeral Home, Inc., 911 Englewood Ave. on Thursday from 2-4 PM and 6-8 PM, where a funeral service will be held on Friday at 9 AM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Roswell Park Alliance or Hospice Foundation of WNY, Inc. Share condolences at mertzfh.com