The Cambrian

Their friend died unexpectedly. So 14 SLO County men volunteered to fix his roof — for free

Imagine 14 skilled craftsmen working together on one roof, stripping down the old and laying down the new. All for free, out of love for their late friend, his wife and their three children.

Cambria is known as a big-hearted community, and that’s exceptionally true in cases of sudden tragedy. Eeden Murdoch Rollins knows that only too well these days.

Her husband, Paul “Waul” Rollins died unexpectedly April 15 at the age of 36, reportedly from a combination of a bad cold and undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Eeden Rollins is a Cambria native and Leffingwell High School grad who has lived in the small town nearly all her life. Her parents, firefighter Tim Murdoch and Leslie Leigh, are longtime Cambria residents.

In 2016, Eeden and Paul Rollins bought a 40-year-old, 1,100-square-foot modular home “that we knew would be a project house,” she said in a phone interview Monday. It was to be a starter home for them and the children, Bennjamen, 12, Sevanna, 4 and Faie, 2.

Eeden Rollins said that she and her husband “knew the house would need a new roof, and Paul was working on getting stuff together to do it.”

But he died before he could.

So, Tim Murdoch and Rick Valente, Rollins father-in-law and boss, respectively, “decided they would do it,” she said.

In true Cambria style, the two men didn’t do it alone. Instead, a group of friends banded together on May 11 to get the leaky roof redone between storms.

David “Smokey” Drew said later that, after their friend died, there’d been no hesitation from anybody about helping with the roof job that involved removing at least three layers of old roofing and patches.

“We had to get the house shipshape for Eeden and the kids,” he said.

“There were two skylights, and they both leaked,” Drew said. “The roof was leaking in Benn’s room. It was covered with a tarp, but the water was still coming in.”

“Paul had been working six days a week,” he said, and with erratically intermittent storms, he hadn’t been able to get the job done.

His friends did it in just eight hours.

Those dedicated craftsmen were, in alphabetical order: Koky Avina; Seth Chauvaux; Smokey Drew; Jeff Drew; Paul Ferriera; Matt Hamm; Thor Holland; Matt Humphrey; Big Tim Kuchenmeister; Tim Murdoch; Mark Pinney; Justin Sheehan; Rick Valente and Chris Vialpando.

The roofing job’s building materials were donated by a local company that wants to remain anonymous, Smokey Drew said.

As Matt Hamm posted later on Facebook, “Brothers always take care of brothers. He would have done the same for any one of us!!!”

Hamm added that Rollins “was a truly great human being.”

Eeden Rollins kept her children away from the house and out of the way during the reroofing. But cellphone pictures sent to her all day by the workmen kept her in the loop.

“Every picture I got, I realized again that Paul had created this cushion of love around us, and that we’ll always be taken care of,” she said. “My dad was thoroughly impressed by how well everybody worked together, in harmony with each other and nobody nitpicking.

“They did this for their best friend, their ‘brother,’ me and the kids.”

Sleep apnea

Paul “Waul” Rollins snored “like a freight train,” according to his wife, and his former roommate, Smokey Drew.

None of them knew that such loud snoring was a strong indicator of sleep apnea.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, sleep apnea is “a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea.”

Eeden Rollins learned about the potentially deadly link between snoring and sleep apnea the hardest way possible, by finding her husband dead on the couch, and now she urges people to be aware, listen and observe.

“If there’s something going on, don’t wait,” she said. “See someone about it. Now.”

She also advises people to “Cherish each day. You just never know what’s going to happen. I lost my husband. My kids lost their father … Paul’s never going to be able to see his kids grow. That breaks me to no end.”

That feeling hits her hard at work at Trader Joe’s, where she said the corporation and her co-workers have been enormously supportive.

“When couples shop with their kids, I just hope they’re really enjoying that time together,” Rollins said quietly. “Once it’s gone, you don’t get it back.”

GoFundMe fundraising campaign

Friends have started a GoFundMe fundraising campaign for the Rollins family, to help with end-of-life costs and future expenses.

For details, go to

As of Tuesday afternoon, pledges totaled nearly $4,600 of a $10,000 goal.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

Kathe Tanner has been writing about the people and places of SLO County’s North Coast since 1981, first as a columnist and then also as a reporter. Her career has included stints as a bakery owner, public relations director, radio host, trail guide and jewelry designer. She has been a resident of Cambria for more than four decades, and if it’s happening in town, Kathe knows about it.