Paul Camyre Touched America's Heart With Financial Trouble

Two weeks ago Paul Camyre was behind on bills, then a nation responded.

Oct. 2, 2008 — -- Two weeks ago on the "Good Morning America" Whistle-Stop '08 Tour, 89-year-old Paul Camyre from Palmer, Mass., emotionally told the "GMA" anchors about his financial hardship.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," he said.

An honest and proud man, Camyre did not want to steal America's heart that day, but that's what he did. The national outpouring was overwhelming.

Click here to see what you can do to lend Camyre a hand.

After lighting up the "GMA" message boards with queries about how to get in touch with Camyre, "GMA" viewers sent him cards, love and money -- several thousand dollars. But no one was more taken aback than his family, who had no idea he was behind in the bills.

"He told none of us," Paul Camyre Jr. said. "He's a proud man. He wanted to do this on his own but he couldn't."

After 89 years, the elder Camyre's latest struggle with finances is far from his first battle.

During World War II, Camyre served as a combat engineer. Building military roads did not keep him out of the line of fire, however, and he was close enough to fighting at Guadalcanal that he had to dodge sniper fire.

He married his sweetheart Junie while on furlough during the war, but then tragedy struck. In the winter of 1944 Camyre was summoned home.

"My father and a friend of his -- my father didn't want to face me alone to tell me my wife had passed away," Camyre said. "We were married two months and 20 days."

Junie had died of a heart ailment.

Camyre's granddaughter Melissa King remembered hearing the heartbreaking story.

"He told us this one story about how, after Junie died, he was crying on the dock and crying and crying and this woman came up to him. She said 'What are you going to cry for? You've got to move on.' So that's what he did."

The grief of Junie's death was hard on him and her family. For Junie's sister Betty, times got even tougher when she lost her boyfriend in the war.

But then a silver lining -- Betty and Camyre fell in love. They married in 1946 and raised four children, Paul, Mary, Peter and Liz.

To help support his family, Camyre pushed himself to work hard, and Betty pushed as well.

"She said, 'I want a man that carries a lunchbox to work and comes home with a paycheck once a week,'" Camyre told "Good Morning America." "So that's how I went to the wire mill, on my wife's orders."

"She had the biggest heart in the world. She had gatherings around the kitchen table. She had friends everywhere and she was a real woman, you know? A great, great person."

Camyre was a machinist in the wire mill for decades, but over his lifetime, he wore many hats. He worked in a glass factory and a leather works. He even had a firefighter's license.

When money got tight, Camyre had to look for whatever work he could get. He remembered one story about going with a friend of his to a nearby town to pick apples for money. The pair had no experience.

"I'll never forget the owner, Mr. Sullivan. He says, 'Are you experienced at picking apples?' And the other fellow looked at me, cause he never told a lie in his life. 'Yes, certainly we know how to pick apples,' I said. 'You treat 'em like eggs.' Well that did it. We got the job."

Such was the life of a man who put his family first.

"He didn't want to put a burden on any of his family," King said. "He raised us to look out for other people."

After nearly 50 years of marriage, Betty passed away of emphysema in 1994. The backyard pool was drained years ago and the school his children attended is long gone. But Camyre, with all his history and heart, is still here.

"I've got more smiles on my face now than I've had for a few years. A smile improves your face value," he said.

What is making him smile is writing thank you letters to all the "GMA" viewers who sent him notes and donations. But the first donation he received was from much closer to home -- his grandson Kyle.

"I love him more than anything in the entire world," Kyle said simply. "He's next to my father. He's the most important person in my entire life. He's enabled me to do everything that I've done and I can't thank him enough for everything that he's done and who he's been to me."