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EULOGY FOR ERWIN SCHAEFFER
by his brother-in-law, Robert Leibowitz, M.D.
December 20, 2001

I feel privileged to be able to speak to all of you about Erwin--about what he meant to me. About what he meant to all of us. I have three brothers, and I never considered Erwin as my brother-in-law. He was my fourth brother. He was the fourth brother also to Len, Irving, Phyllis, and Jerry.

There has never been a time in my life in which Erwin didn't play a significant part. He was there when I needed him. He was there when I didn't ask. And that is how I choose to remember him--with a series of memories of when he was there-- all the more vivid to me now that he is gone.

I was nine years old when Erwin started dating my big sister, Shirley. I remember feeling good about this tall man with a mustache. He was always hugging and kissing my sister. I remember when he and Shirley took me to Coney Island and, when I was afraid to go on the rides by myself, Erwin rode with me. He rode with me in many other ways through out my life.

When Debby was born, and then, Garry, the Schaeffer family visits to my home in New Jersey were always eagerly awaited. I got to play with my niece and nephew, but I also remember Erwin playing with his daughter and son. Many years later, he was to play with my grandson, Andrew, when my daughter and her husband visited San Diego. That was during the summer - soon after Erwin's surgery. He entertained my family, even during his convalescence. That was Erwin's way.

When I was older, I would spend a week, most summers, visiting with Shirley and Erwin in New York. Those were great times.

Erwin gave me my first car, literally. He had been driving it himself, and, when it was time for me to drive, he just gave it to me. At age 17, I was the proud owner of a Henry J with four on the floor. Actually, it was three on the column. I loved that car. But that wasn't why I loved Erwin. You loved Erwin because he went out of his way to show how much he loved you. And he loved my parents. I will never forget the special relationship that he had with my father. He just couldn't do enough for my father.

When I went away to college, Erwin sent me a monthly check, because he thought it would take some of the burden from my father. The money was for books, clothes, movies, or whatever I wanted. He didn't ask. He told me not to tell my father. I didn't. That was Erwin's way.

Forty years later, when I was between jobs, Erwin always asked me how I was doing. I said fine. I was afraid if I gave any other answer, he would send me a check.

Between my college semesters one summer, I had trouble finding a good job. Erwin gave me a job in his hardware store in Long Island. Once again, Shirley and Erwin opened their house to me and I spent the summer employed at Nassau McGowan Hardware. It was one of the greatest summers of my life. I made friends. I swam in their pool. And Erwin was always there.

When I graduated college, Erwin was there - taking movies and smiling at me. I was proud. I felt that he was, too.

When I married, Erwin was there. Now the trips to visit with him and Shirley included my wife--first to New York; then to Florida; and finally San Diego. He loved Diane, and we both wished that we could have visited as often as we were asked.

I remember how Erwin use to play with my children, Marc and Susan. I was never certain who was having the most fun. They weren't able to spend much time with him as they grew older and were off developing their own lives, but Erwin always asked about them. I'm glad that Susan had the opportunity, however brief, to visit with him this past summer.

Shirley and Erwin came to New Jersey a year ago for Thanksgiving. It was the last time I saw him.

All of us who knew Erwin shouldn't be surprised by any of the comments that I have made here. This was a celebration of his life as I remember it. Erwin is gone--and we're going to grieve. But he would not want our grief to continue without an endpoint. He would want us to get on with our lives; to remember him, but to celebrate our own lives. That would be Erwin's way.

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