Daughter shares details about Tinkham’s life before Concord homeless camp, his death

Last modified: 8/14/2013 12:34:02 AM
To his daughters, Paul Tinkham could fix most anything. A trained mechanic and professional craftsman, he spent much of his adult life troubleshooting the problems of others: an untiled floor, a broken taillight, a toilet that wouldn’t flush.

“He had a very broad knowledge of many things,” his daughter Anna Tinkham said yesterday.

But what the 52-year-old, who died Saturday, struggled unsuccessfully for years to repair was a debilitating addiction to alcohol. It was this, Anna said, that led Tinkham in recent months to the Concord homeless encampment where the police found him with severe head injuries last week.

The circumstances surrounding Tinkham’s death remain unclear. An autopsy on his body was completed yesterday, said Lt. Greg Ferry of the state police, but the results likely won’t be released for weeks, pending further tests. Authorities have disclosed few details about his injuries and have not indicated whether they suspect criminal behavior to have played a part.

A group of men who said that they had lived with Tinkham at the camp, near Fort Eddy Road, said in an interview last week that he had slipped, but then they said he had actually been beaten.

A native of Braintree, Mass., Tinkham grew up in Henniker and became interested in mechanics as a young adult – a fascination that led to employment at a handful of prominent corporations, including Stonyfield Farm and Tyson, Anna said. He fathered three children, all girls, and got divorced about 14 years ago, when Anna was 9, she said.

Following the divorce, Tinkham moved to Nashua and began working independently. The girls stayed with their mother in the Concord area, but they visited regularly and remained close despite the distance, Anna said.

“His daughters were the most important things to him,” she said.

But as they got older, his trouble with substance abuse worsened, she said, resulting in repeated hospital stays and an arrest in March 2012 for driving while intoxicated. His mobility deteriorated and it became difficult for him to climb a ladder, let alone find steady work, Anna said. By the time he was released on bail last April, he had lost his apartment and moved in with a childhood friend in Henniker.

When he was taken to a hospital again last August, doctors indicated that Tinkham’s liver and kidneys were failing, and that he likely had three to six months to live, Anna said.

“I think he just gave up on himself at that point,” she said. “That kind of pushed him into not caring where he was living.”

He became homeless in Concord for a few months last fall and then moved into an apartment on Loudon Road, where he lived for the winter, Anna said. He lost the apartment after yet another hospital visit earlier this year, and he tried for a time to live with Anna’s 26-year-old sister, Janine, though it didn’t last.

“We were trying to get him on the right track with no drinking, but it just didn’t work out,” Anna said.

After he was found last Tuesday, Tinkham was transported to Concord Hospital and then transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. But because of a spelling error, it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that family members were able to verify that it was in fact Tinkham who had been admitted, Anna said.

Anna, Janine and Tinkham’s youngest daughter, Jolyn, 19, drove to the hospital and met with their father. He was in bad shape, Anna said, though she wouldn’t provide details out of respect for the police investigation. She said they were able to speak with him briefly Wednesday and heard his account of what had happened, though on that, similarly, she would not elaborate, other than to say she had relayed the information to the police.

By Thursday, Tinkham was on life support and had a tube into his stomach, she said. On Friday, a nurse and doctor called to tell her that his condition had worsened and that family should come to the hospital as soon as possible. He died the next morning.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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