Main­tained ci­vil­ity on Straight Dope Mes­sage Board for over 20 years — and played a mean tuba

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MAU­REEN O’DON­NELL, STAFF REPORTER mod­on­nell@sun­ | @sun­time­so­bits Con­tribut­ing: Lizzie Schiff­man Tu­fano

On her Face­book page, she was “Jennifer Paradis, Tuba-Amer­i­can.” Her mes­sage board han­dle was TubaDiva.

To in­quir­ing minds around the globe, she was an in­trepid re­searcher, com­puter guru, set­tler of de­bates and a wel­com­ing on­line pres­ence. Some talked to her al­most ev­ery day.

For more than 20 years, Jenny Paradis was the ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Straight Dope Mes­sage Board, which bills it­self as “Fight­ing Ig­no­rance since 1973.” The SDMB had its roots in a Chicago Reader col­umn that ran from 1973 to 2018.

Now owned by the Chicago Sun-Times, it con­tin­ues as an on­line dis­cus­sion fo­rum with threads on top­ics as dis­parate as “Aus­tralian Bush­fires” and “Ex­treme Jell-O Recipes.”

“If some­body needed her, she had time for them,” ac­cord­ing to her mother, Re­becca Grif­fin Jesse. “She was loved by so many peo­ple. She had friends, ac­quain­tances ev­ery­where be­cause of the kind of work she did.”

Ms. Paradis, who had di­a­betes and Hashimoto’s disease, died July 1 at her De­catur, Ge­or­gia, home at 65, her mother said.

Some in the Straight Dope Mes­sage Board com­mu­nity said the news had them mourn­ing a per­son they never met.

Main­tain­ing ci­vil­ity is a big re­spon­si­bil­ity on mes­sage boards. With the help of an es­ti­mated two dozen mod­er­a­tors she man­aged world­wide, “That’s what Jenny did,” said Ed Zotti, ed­i­tor of the orig­i­nal Straight Dope col­umn.

She also over­saw the ar­chive of thou­sands of col­umns.

Peo­ple who post on Straight Dope some­times de­bate pol­i­tics, Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues and the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment. They also ask and an­swer ques­tions, such as: Why are onions so big lately? ... What is the type of Ger­man plane shot down in the movie 1917? ... Ex­treme Evil 3 Re­make. Any­body play­ing?

Also: “If you shoot some­one in self-de­fense are you bet­ter off (from a le­gal stand­point) to kill the per­son rather than wound them?”

One of seven chil­dren, Jenny could read by the time she was 4, ac­cord­ing to her mother, who said, “She was a very smart per­son, and she re­tained what she ab­sorbed.”

Her life was filled with books and mu­sic. “That’s when she was hap­pi­est,” her mother said, “when she was play­ing her tuba.”

She stud­ied at the Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic in Bos­ton, where the win­ter weather re­quired an ad­just­ment for a Georgian. When it snowed two inches, she as­sumed work would be closed. She once told her mother, “I turned over when the alarm went off.”

Her boss called Ms. Paradis and said, “Why aren’t you here?”

“It’s snow­ing,” she replied.

“She couldn’t believe they didn’t can­cel work,” her mother said.

Be­fore at­tend­ing Berklee, she worked for Coca-Cola in At­lanta.

“That was her in­tro­duc­tion to com­put­ers,” her mother said. By the early 1980s, “She was very into com­put­ers.”

She had six of them at home and “could type 130 words a minute,” ac­cord­ing to her mother.

For a time, she worked in New York City as a copy ed­i­tor for Peo­ple mag­a­zine be­fore re­turn­ing to Ge­or­gia.

Over the years, she at­tended SDMB gath­er­ings in Chicago that were known as “DopeS­tock.”

For about 30 years, she played tuba and did so­los in the Cal­lan­wolde Con­cert Band, a De­catur, Ge­or­gia, group of about 70 vol­un­teer mu­si­cians.

“In ad­di­tion to be­ing a very fine mu­si­cian, she was very much a car­ing in­di­vid­ual and had a great sense of humor,” said Glenn Moore, the band’s con­duc­tor and mu­sic di­rec­tor. “She was af­firm­ing of oth­ers. She was al­ways the one to share and com­pli­ment one an­other.”

For­mer band­mate Bob Mee­han said that, af­ter the Fe­bru­ary death of his wife, Ms. Paradis helped care for him un­til he could get into as­sisted liv­ing.

“She was su­per sup­port­ive,” Mee­han said. She also par­tic­i­pated in other mu­si­cal groups, in­clud­ing At­lanta’s TubaChrist­mas, a cel­e­bra­tion of the in­stru­ments and its mu­si­cians.

“She was very de­voted to it,” said Don Strand, who helped found the event. “She did all she could to help with the pro­mo­tion of it, whether through her web skills or her per­for­mance skills.”

Ms. Paradis was a re­gional chief for tim­ing and scor­ing at rac­ing events or­ga­nized by At­lanta’s Sports Car Club of Amer­ica. She en­joyed good Scotch and English mys­ter­ies by P.D. James and Elizabeth Ge­orge. She loved her cat, Sa­man­tha.

To re­mem­ber her, Zotti said, the on­line com­mu­nity is dis­cussing rais­ing money to buy a tuba to present to a school in her honor.

In ad­di­tion to her mother, Ms. Paradis is sur­vived by her sis­ter Deb­o­rah A. Koma and broth­ers Ed­ward C. Paradis III, Lawrence M. Paradis, David M. Paradis and Ger­ald L. Hagar. A fu­ture ser­vice is planned.


Jennifer Paradis was ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Straight Dope Mes­sage Board and a pop­u­lar tuba player in many bands.

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