A life well lived; those words apply to someone I knew who recently passed away. He lived long (90) and well. Above all else a family man. He deeply loved his own family, and as if there could ever have been any doubt, he loved people. He was one of those all too rare individuals who had a positive impact upon the world he inhabited. He deeply loved his family and his community. He willingly, and quietly, gave his time to any task that came his way. Something need fixing, he was on it.
He and I, along with a few others, on Monday evenings, played cards together for close to 10 years. Over the course of any given year, we’d be together at least two dozen times, and our paths would occasionally cross outside the card room. While we never really “socialized” outside of those weekly blackjack nights, there was never any doubt that if he knew you, you were his friend. His philosophy was that the world was full of friends he had yet to meet. If he had malice toward anyone, it never showed. When he spoke, he did so softly and in such a way that demonstrated his respect for all.
It wasn’t until after he passed that I learned his parents were Armenian emigres who, in the early 20th century, came to America to escape the genocide and violence directed toward Armenians by the Turks. His parents did not know each other before their arrival in the states, even though both were from the town of Gurun. But the simple fact of their shared hometown eventually led to their meeting and subsequent marriage. Those two Armenian immigrants had two children of their own, a daughter and my friend.
The idea of family meant the most to my friend. He spoke to his sister every week. If you had the good fortune to be a member of his family and it was your birthday, you would be the recipient of a birthday call and his version of the “Happy Birthday” song. If he knew one of his children or grandchildren were coming to visit, he would be waiting expectantly for their arrival. He often said that family was the most important thing in the world to him. I’ve heard others say that same thing, but with him, there could never be any doubt that he took those words to heart.
He graduated high school at 16, Virginia Tech at 20. Worked for a federal agency for over 30 years. Then worked another 10-plus years for a government contractor. But his real vocation, during and after his working years was that of husband, father, uncle, grandfather, neighbor and friend.
My friend has now moved onto that big blackjack table in the sky, where you always hit a soft 17, always split aces, always split eights and know the odds of when to hit when the count is less than 17. But as I think of him this Christmas season, I can’t help but be reminded of the main character in the 1947 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It’s about a man who gets the chance to “see” what the world would have been like had he not been alive. Unlike that man, I don’t for a minute think he regretted having been born. I don’t know if he knew just what an impact he had on his surroundings. I know, as do all those who knew him, that he made a difference, a positive difference. My friend’s initials were W and E; together, they spell we. I think it quite appropriate his initials spell that word because, well, that was his approach to life. We, not you, not I, but we, as we are all in this together.
It was my distinct pleasure to have known Walton Egelanian, known to everyone as Ege. If ever there was someone who could be held up as a model, it was him. His was indeed a wonderful life. He’s gone but not forgotten.
Shelby J. Barnes writes from Easton.