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Obituary: Richard Paulson, 62, Washington Lottery Spokesman

Apr 17, 2006, 2:33 pm

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Washington Lottery

In his 13 years as spokesman for Washington's state lottery, Richard Paulson met a lot of newly minted millionaires.

If he ever felt a stab of envy, he didn't let it show.

"I cannot honestly remember, in all the years I knew him, ever not seeing a smile on his face," said his longtime friend and associate Scott Janzen.

One of Mr. Paulson's duties as public-relations manager was to prep winners to meet the media. A trucker who scored $14 million said he intended to keep his job because he loved driving trucks, Janzen recalled.

"I had this incredulous look on my face, but Richard just smiled and told me he understood, because he loved his job, too," said Janzen, president of Wong Doody Communications in Seattle.

Mr. Paulson died April 6 of bladder and liver cancer in Long Beach, Calif., where he had lived with his wife for the past year and a half. He was 62.

As the public face of the lottery from 1984 to 1997, Mr. Paulson was a celebrity across the state.

He joined the program in its early days, when the only product was scratch tickets. As new options such as the Daily Game, Lotto and Quinto were added, Mr. Paulson would hit the road to promote and explain them. He prepared the oversized checks handed out to winners, emceed televised award ceremonies and worked to drum up excitement around big jackpots.

"I would describe Dick as a combination cheerleader/game-show host/sports announcer/carnival pitchman," said Mike O'Hern, a management analyst for the lottery.

In the days before cellphones, Mr. Paulson carried index cards with contact information for reporters and editors from Spokane to Bellingham. He endeared himself to journalists by promptly answering every call and providing a wealth of background information and facts.

"He was on old-fashioned kind of PR guy," O'Hern said. "He loved to rub elbows with the press."

When the public or media questioned the lottery's finances, or the ethics of state-sponsored gaming, Mr. Paulson was the one to respond.

For years after Mr. Paulson left the lottery, players and winners would come by the agency's front desk and ask for him, O'Hern said.

His departure was not a happy one. In 1997 Mr. Paulson told The Seattle Times he had been asked to resign because of a "difference in philosophy" over his duties. He thought the lottery spokesman should be visible in the community. The new director wanted more office work.

Mr. Paulson continued his public-relations career at other state agencies, including the Washington state Department of Health and Human Services. He also worked for US West Communications and the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

In the latter job, he faced the challenge of making rural road construction interesting, said Jim Haynes, who met Mr. Paulson when they both worked for US West.

"He did some really creative things, getting folks excited about snow fences," Haynes said with a chuckle.

The two men started a cooperative public-relations venture before Paulson fell ill.

Born in Fargo, N.D., Mr. Paulson was raised in Oregon. After graduating from college, he worked as a sports announcer and maintained a lifelong passion for baseball and football, said his wife, Linda Daileda Paulson.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Paulson is survived by his sister, Linda Speakman, her husband, Tom, and daughter Jenny; brother Randy Paulson and his wife, Cheryl, all of Portland.

Services will be held early next month in Portland. For more information, contact Tom Speakman, 503-254-0075.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Long Beach Museum of Art, 2300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach Calif., 90802, attention Ron Nelson.

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