Skip to Content

Rose Parade Tribute to Alum’s Life-Saving Donation

A floral depiction of Paul Eskildsen (‘81), a former student of Westmont College who passed away in 2017, was showcased in the 2024 Rose Parade on the OneLegacy Donate Life float titled Woven Together: The Dance of Life. Paul had a deep commitment to aiding others even after his passing. At 59 years old and in excellent health, he generously donated his heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs to save the lives of four individuals, while his eye and tissue contributions positively impacted 66 others. April marks National Donate Life Month, a campaign that emphasizes the critical importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation.

Tragically, Paul succumbed to an unforeseen brain injury the day following Christmas. Over the course of his life, he held various roles in the field of information technology. He shared a 26-year marriage with his wife, Leslie, and their daughter, Emma, is now 29 years old.

Following Paul’s passing, Leslie became a spokesperson for the Donate Life initiative a year later. Reflecting on the unique circumstances surrounding Paul’s death and the comprehensive donations made, she felt compelled to contribute. Leslie discovered the annual Donate Life float, featuring floral portraits of donors alongside organ recipients. To participate, she underwent media training, engaging in public appearances. Despite delays due to COVID, she applied the following summer and was accepted.

Collaborating with six family members, Leslie embarked on the emotional and intricate process of crafting a floragraph portraying Paul using flowers and natural materials. Initially expecting a straightforward task, they spent 10 hours determining the appropriate hues for his skin and hair. Their final rendition incorporated five shades of cream, espresso for his glasses, and a distinct seed for the backdrop. Notably, they were asked to place a single grain of rice in his eyes to infuse vitality into the portrait.

During his youth as a Boy Scout in Pasadena, Paul contributed to decorating Rose Parade floats with his troop. He was an active member of the Lake Avenue Church and participated in Christian youth groups at John Muir High School before graduating from Westmont with a degree in religious studies.

Paul and Leslie exchanged vows at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Laguna Hills, where he received confirmation and pursued Education for Ministry. His altruism extended to regular blood donations to the Red Cross, organizing blood drives for his church, and frequent platelet donations. Following his passing, the Red Cross hematologist visited the ICU at Mission Hospital with flowers upon learning of his demise, a gesture deeply appreciated by Leslie.

Additionally, Paul developed a significant bond with a young boy through Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. His untimely death posed a challenge for his daughter, as the boy was vacationing in Mexico with his family at the time. In their obituary, Leslie and Emma lauded Paul’s unwavering devotion to his family, nieces, and nephews, highlighting his selfless care and love.

One of his nephews, Sam Reep (‘20), pursued a computer science degree at Westmont and now serves as a software engineer at HG Insights in Lompoc. Discovering Paul’s alma mater post-registration, Sam felt a profound connection. He reminisced about Paul’s intellect, attentive listening skills, and altruistic endeavors, including his involvement in the Big Brother program and organ donations. Sam and his family deeply mourn Paul’s absence, cherishing his impactful legacy.