Saying goodbye to a Colonel; family, campus community reflects on life of “Eddie” Elgonitis

Saying goodbye to a Colonel; family, campus community reflects on life of “Eddie” Elgonitis

Photo Courtesy of Elgonitis Family

Taryn Talacka, niece, explained that her uncle’s large heart and lively personality is what she will remember most about him. “At every family gathering we had, Eddie’s favorite thing to do was lead the chicken dance,” Talacka said. “He would stand in the middle of a circle made up of his family, and he would lead the whole dance... I think that’s how I’ll always remember him, as the life of the party.”

Sarah Bedford, News Editor

The Wilkes University campus community said goodbye to a longtime Colonel on Jan. 9.

Edward Elgonitis, 76, affectionately called Eddie by students, faculty and staff, passed away following an illness.

Those who knew Eddie described him as having a “larger than life” personality.

Eddie was employed by Wilkes for roughly 40 years first in the maintenance department and after retirement, returned to the university in Sept. 2004 part time working in the mail room where he interacted with many students.

James Yeninas, the university’s mailroom supervisor, explained that Eddie was able to connect with students in such a way that made him unique.

“I think it’s because he took an interest in them,” Yeninas said. “He knew lots of them by name, what their major was, what activities or clubs they were in but most of all he made them laugh. He would joke with them, tease them and I think in general just brightened they day.”

Head Football Coach Trey Brown found that Eddie had a similar effect even among staff, poking fun at Assistant Head Coach Matthew DiBernardo.

Brown recalled Eddie saying, “All your coaches are great, but keep this guy (DiBernardo) out of here,” he explained, laughing.

A loyal supporter of Wilkes athletic events, Eddie could be found “on the hill” at most home football games, according to Brown.

“My time with Eddie was short…every time I would go into the SUB I would come by the second floor to talk,” Brown said. “He was excited to see someone stopping by.”

Along with athletics, Eddie also supported Wilkes Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society.

Bethany Sharpless, pharmacy, has worked closely with the university’s Relay for Life event and grew close to Eddie as well.

Eddie was a very important part of Relay the last few years, and will be a huge hole in our hearts as this year’s event comes up.”

Jenn Schlegel, elementary education, and Jessica Drebot, criminology, shared some of their memories of Eddie from the event as well.

My favorite Relay memory of Eddie was always his survivor laps,” explained Schlegel. “He was always giving everyone a high-five or a fist bump as he made a lap. He always had a smile on his face. Last year for Relay Eddie also shared his story with us at the Survivor Ceremony and he brought me to tears. Eddie truly was a wonderful man and he will be missed at Relay this year.”

Having Eddie as one of the survivor speakers last year was especially meaningful to me because he meant so much to the Wilkes community. I can never forget the small lessons that Eddie taught me or the survivor lap that I was able to push him around in the wheelchair,” Drebot said. “ He was always such a happy man and that brushed off on everyone that he came into contact with.”

Taryn Talacka, Eddie’s niece, shared similar sentiments about his kindness and enthusiasm saying, “His heart had no boundaries” and at family affairs, he was “always the life of the party” leading the “chicken dance”.

Talacka explained that Eddie never needed to bring up his love of the university as his Colonel pride was always in step.

He didn’t have to mention Wilkes–the university was written all over him. He wore Wilkes shirts and sweatshirts every day. I don’t think I ever saw him wear anything else. He truly loved the school, students, and faculty. He wore Wilkes clothing with pride!”

The university will hold a memorial service at 11:15 a.m. on Jan. 29 in the Henry Student Center Ballroom. Anyone who has photos of Eddie is welcome to send them to Melissa Howells, [email protected] to include in a display.