'Survivor' shares his TV experience with chamber crowd

By Brewer Turley

cairo -- The guest speaker at Monday night's 78th Annual Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce Meeting was celebrity Paschal "Pappy" English, who starred on "Survivor: Marquesas" in 2002.

English was impressed by the Regional Community Center where the event was held.

"Of all the venues I've spoken at, this is the most unique," he said. "These are absolutely amazing facilities."

He began by showing footage of himself on "Survivor" in which he and other contestants competed in one of the show's challenges. Survivors had to dive 20 feet into the water, pick up a 40-pound rock and carry it under water for a quarter of a mile.

The footage showed English winning the competition, dropping his stone at host Jeff Probst's feet first and being embraced by the members of his tribe. English said he shows the footage when he goes to speaking engagements as an illustration of the difficulties of the show.

"The show taught me a lesson that I want to teach you tonight: Remove the word 'no' from your vocabulary," English said. On "Survivor," he said he tried to challenge the notion of what a 57-year-old man was capable of.

As it turned out, English was able to outlast most of the other, younger competitors on "Survivor" and make it into the final round, spending a total of 46 days on a remote island away from his family and the conveniences of civilization.

Marquesas is an uninhabited island "a thousand miles from anything," English said. His family did not know where he would be living during his season of "Survivor," and the only item he was allowed to take with him, aside from the bare necessities, was an American flag.

During his time on "Survivor," English broke two fingers, blew out his knee and lost 30 pounds due to a lack of food on the island.

"Nothing is staged. It is the most difficult thing I've ever had to do in my life," he said.

The contestants on the Marquesas season of "Survivor" were the first -- and last -- cast to be denied food in the show's history. English called going hungry "the scariest thing I've ever been through," and said the show's creators changed the rules after seeing the effect starvation had on the Marquesas tribes.

He was told before being chosen as a survivor that the show would be an extreme trial. He recalled one of the show's producers giving him a bit of advice.

"During the selection process, he told me 'Don't get involved in Survivor unless you want your life to change,'" English said.

The idea to audition for the show came from his wife, who he described as a tremendous Oprah Winfrey fan. One day on "Oprah," the topic was making a list of things you want to do before you die, and English's wife urged him to do so. She also urged him to include his longtime dream of trying out for "Survivor" on his list.

English did audition for the show and was picked out of 150,000 other hopefuls to join 15 contestants on "Survivor: Marquesas." Although being on the show was one of the most difficult things he has ever done, English said there were a lot of positives he took away from the experience.

For instance, he still keeps in touch with most of his castmates, whom he bonded with while on the show. Sean, the 29-year-old teacher from Harlem, is "like a son to me," English said. He was recently nominated as the National Teacher of the Year, English reported to the chamber crowd.

Gabe, a 22-year-old college student from North Carolina, first gave English the name "Pappy," a moniker that stuck with him throughout the season. Gabe first showed English the "Southern Cross," a constellation in the southern hemisphere that English had never seen.

And Neleh, the 21-year-old student from Utah, has become as close as family to English. She caught the bouquet at English's daughter's wedding and became engaged that very night.

On a speaking tour after leaving Marquesas, English was invited to talk to a group of soldiers, where he said he received the most important message of his life. Following his speech, one of the soldiers gave him a slip of paper that read, "Sir, the most important things in life are not things. The most important things in life are people."

English is a Superior Court judge in the Griffin Judicial Circuit. He served in the United States Air Force from 1969-73. Following a tour in Southeast Asia, he left the Air Force as a colonel and enlisted in the Georgia National Guard.

For 12 years, English served as chief assistant district attorney, then received his appointment as Superior Court judge in 1987. He holds a bachelor of Science degree and a doctorate degree in Jurisprudence from the University of Georgia.

English is a member of the Thomaston Bar Association, Griffin Circuit Bar Association, Georgia Bar Association and First United Methodist Church of Thomaston, where he lives with his wife, Beverly English.

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