Coworkers remember 57-year-old man who fell from Highrise Bridge

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The latest round of winter weather is over but many are still reeling from the effects, especially friends and family of the man who fell from the Interstate 10 Highrise Bridge, Wednesday morning, after icy conditions caused another driver to lose control.

"He went out of his way to introduce himself as Paul, not Paul the Cook, Paul the Chef," said VOA Director of Veteran Services Gerald Rook.

Fifty-seven year-old Paul Cager put love into his food.

"Paul would come in here every morning and prepare his food like he was preparing it for himself. And I'm like, 'golly Paul, you can really do it.' He says, 'if I'm not doing it like I would like it, I'm not doing it at all,'" explained VOA Assistant Director of Veterans Services Chris Randall.

He made meals for more than 50 homeless veterans at Volunteers of America-- a place aimed towards getting struggling vets struggling back on their feet.

"A good meal will make you forget about a lot of the bad things going on in your life and a bad meal will do just the opposite, so I had to have a good cook and Paul was a great chef," said Rooks.

Yet, his colleagues say Paul didn't just have a passion for food, he had a passion for people and a mission to fulfill.

"He was not just a cook. He was really like a counselor to the guys. He didn't judge. He listened to what issues they had, shared his past, made them realize we all fall down sometime in life," Rooks explained.

They say Paul helped to remind them of their purpose at the VOA because, for him, it was more than a job, it was a calling. It was something he did out of love, not money.

"His food was incredible, which always made me think, 'why are you here?' And he said, 'because this is where I'm supposed to be,'" said Rooks.

"He cared for all of the veterans here," said VOA Case Manager Anita Jefferson. "That's why he was getting out of his bed to come here, because he cared for them greatly."

It was Wednesday, January 17, the morning after sleet and snow fell in the metro area.

"I personally asked Paul not to come to work because I knew the road conditions would be poor," said Rooks. "I wish he had just taken that one day off."

Paul went anyway.

Police say he was out of his vehicle after being involved in a crash on the High Rise, when another driver lost control due to icy roads, hitting Paul and knocking him over the guardrail to his death.

"It was very heartfelt to know that when I arrived here that I wouldn't see his truck, wouldn't see him," said Jefferson.

He had been an employee for less than a year, but those working at the VOA say his legacy of love will never be forgotten.

"To know that he could cook like that and he did it out of love for the guys, you can't find a better person," Randall said.

"We've lost a valued employee and for those who did not know him, they missed out. But for those of us who got the opportunity to walk with him, he will forever carry him in our hearts," Jefferson said.

Employees at the VOA say they plan to hang a plaque there in Paul's honor.

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