Paul Eugene Hays was an Athens computer systems professional who died of COVID-19 in February. (Courtesy/Michael Hays)

Paul Eugene Hays, a computer systems professional and entrepreneur, died from COVID-19 on Feb. 24 at 58 years old.

In 1989, Paul Hays moved to Athens when he recognized the value of technology and his passion for helping small businesses, said Inna Hays, his mother. He continued his education at the University of Georgia in the Ph.D. management information systems program, but left to make a mark of his own.

Paul Hays started his company, Athens Technology Partners, and he set up and maintained computer systems for businesses and organizations around the U.S. until he died.

Each customer and person he met became his friend, his brother Michael Hays said.

An intelligent, creative and curious man, Paul Hays enjoyed playing devil’s advocate, said Inna Hays. He could hold a conversation on almost any topic and was a WWII enthusiast.

Paul Hays also enjoyed traveling and channeling his inner sense of adventure, his mother said.

If friends, family or even strangers struggled, Paul was the shoulder they leaned on, his brother Drew Hays said. Whether it was computer problems or a neighbor with a broken pipe, they could depend on Paul for anything, even on a Sunday afternoon.

“He wasn't, say, the center of one big universe — he was the center of 100 small ones — and that's just the kind of person that he was. Everybody tended to gravitate to him but not because he was loud, boisterous or the life of the party. He was just always there,” said Drew Hays.