1951 - 2007
Eulogy Given by Nick Caskey at the Veterans Administration
April 19, 2007
I first met Ed thirty years ago in my second year of graduate school at UCLA. Ed had returned to UCLA to join my class after taking a year off in Santa Cruz following his first year as a graduate student. My second year class had a party in the late summer of 1977 for the incoming first year class of clinical psychology students. One of my classmates who had been introduced to Ed already told me “I think you might like this guy”. And, as the movie said, that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Seventeen years later he was the best man at my wedding.
In reviewing what I know about his life, I’m going to quote liberally from the wonderful eulogy given last Thursday by his childhood friend Glen Creason about Ed’s background, childhood history, his accomplishments and the mark he left on the lives of the many who were privileged to know him well. Glen knew Ed for 50 years.
Ed was a native Angeleno. He grew up in South Gate on Annetta Avenue. When Ed was raised there in the 1950’s, it was, in Glen’s words: “that little slice of the American dream”. In those days, Anneta Avenue was a tightly knit community of close families.
Ed was an only child, the son of loving parents Tom and Kathy. As a small child he formed long-lasting and deep attachments with his neighbors that continued for the rest of his life. He was “adopted” into several families. In particular he became known as the “10th Knowlton”. The Knowltons were and are a large family that lived across the street. He was like blood-kin and to this day the Knowlton sisters call him a brother. As a small child in his neighborhood, he earned the nickname “little Eddie”. In Glen’s words “He was a cherubic, rosy-cheeked kid who was unusually good-natured and even-tempered”. “His goodness, his kindness, generosity and his infinite patience with the kids in his neighborhood has been attributed to the grace of his wonderful mother”. As his friend Glen has said: “Everybody near the family knew Cathy as hands down the nicest person who ever drew a breath. Ed just followed her lead.”
As a child in South Gate on Anneta Avenue, Glen said he was sharp as a tack, a great sport and a Cracker Jack athlete. His skill and coordination were such that he could play with the big guys and without embellishment Glen said “he was the best hitter in Pee Wee baseball at the South Gate Park I ever saw, hands down”.
It has been said that Ed would have probably gone on to further baseball glories but for an unfortunate tangle with a sprinkler head while playing a game of pickle. While his promising baseball career was cut short, he never gave up his love of sports and athletics. One never knows what might have been and baseball’s loss has undoubtedly been psychology’s gain.
Ed was raised as a Roman Catholic and served as a head altar boy at 6:30 morning mass on Sundays for Father Kelly at St. Helen’s parish. He excelled at St. Helens School and was a quick study in a wide variety of subjects. In Glen’s words: “He was a cute little guy and it was early on that girls noticed the rosy cheeked lad and everybody gave him Valentines on the day of love. He was the soul of affability and was liked by big and little kids alike.”
Ed graduated with honors from St. Helens. Subsequently he graduated from Pius X High School in 1969 and he was admitted to UCLA with a California Scholarship Federation award, awards made on the basis of a “high standard of service and scholarship”. As Gary has noted, Ed excelled at UCLA and his accomplishments there resulted in his admission to the clinical psychology graduate program there.
Ed was a devoted son of wonderful parents. In Glen’s words, he was a true hero in the strictest sense of the word regarding his own Mom and her struggle with cancer. His mother had recurrent bone cancer and her passing was a long drawn out painful struggle. Ed rarely complained and dutifully drove every single day from West Los Angeles to Downey to sit at her bedside for month after painful month. Ed was the model of “the good son”. He was stoic and strong and teared up only rarely as he carried that heavy load. Having witnessed this painful time for him, I am grateful for the quickness of his own very premature passing.
Two weeks ago today, Ed did not report to work. As the morning wore on, Viola and I became increasingly concerned and alarmed. Something felt very wrong. It was extremely “un-Ed-like”, out of character for him not to show up for work and not to call. There are several adjectives that aptly describe Ed and responsible would be near the very top of the list. With Peter’s help we were able to confirm that he was not on leave status. He was not answering my phone calls. As the morning wore on, it became obvious that I needed to go check on my best friend and colleague to see if he was OK. Eventually I gained access to his condominium with the help of his neighbors, especially Barbara. We found him slumped down in the chair at his desk, a glass of orange juice at his side. He appeared to be in no distress, only very deeply asleep. The paramedics came quickly and took good care, but the massive damage had obviously been done. When I visited him the next day at his hospital bed at UCLA to say my final goodbye, he appeared to be resting very peacefully.
Both Glen Creason and his long time tennis partner and colleague Steve Marder have commented to me that the loss of Ed is like the loss of a fundamental thread in the fabric of my daily life and also in the lives of so many others.
He was a highly respected colleague and teacher, a leader within the psychology department. I have received many messages of condolence from his former VA Psychology interns as well as the students he supervised and taught at the UCLA Psychology Clinic. As a measure of his teaching, several former interns attended a memorial service held for Dr. Ed last Friday at the Day Treatment program for the patients there. Many current and former interns are here with us today, physically or in spirit, to celebrate his life and to mourn his passing.
At the Day Treatment program, he was a master of bingo and an astute observer of the program that he ran as a very tight, yet still very relaxed ship. He was always aware of how the patients were doing and how the group process was going though he might appear to be observing casually from a distance. He was supportive and empathic with his patients. They knew he was there for them when they were in distress, that he had an open door policy and many said that they considered him their friend and that he had changed their lives in significant ways.
He was as organized a person as I think I will ever know, yet he had a tremendous capacity for spontaneous wit. Many of us recall being the target of his ribbing. For several months some years ago at our monthly Psychology Staff meetings, Ed kept suggesting that I be detailed to Bakersfield for the good of the service. Those of us who were there at the last Psychology Staff meeting he attended the day before his stroke will remember his “cracking wise” up to the end.
Ed was a major sports enthusiast, a Dodger and UCLA Bruin fan through and through. I learned over the years to never telephone Ed during a UCLA football game unless the outcome was certain and in favor of the Bruins. Ed went missing this year from his annual opening day pilgrimage to Dodger Stadium with his Southgate and Pius X friends. I do know for a fact that he was actually one of the fans in the stands for the Kirk Gibson walk-off World Series game homerun in 1988.
In graduate school, Ed played 16” (Chicago style) softball in Santa Monica on the Rose Avenue Flashes team and also on a UCLA 12” intramural championship team, Fear and Loathing.
When I first met Ed, he was a devoted paddle tennis player, playing every Saturday at the courts in Santa Monica with his graduate school buddies, every week until the courts were eventually ripped up. After the destruction of the paddle tennis courts, Ed went on to become an avid tennis player and a weekly player of doubles. His paddle tennis skills translated extremely well to his net game in tennis. He seemed to derive great enjoyment from delivery of a bit of what he called “sizzle-lean” with a sharp, crisp volley to the body of his opponents across the net.
Tennis became a major passion for Ed. He went to the All England Lawn Tennis Club twice, first when he traveled to Ireland and England with his mother at a time when there was no championship tennis being played. He simply wanted to go there and soak in what it was to be like at Centre Court. He was a season subscriber to the Los Angeles Open every summer at UCLA.
The second visit to Wimbledon was different. Much different. In late November of 2004, he attended a family reunion with the large Knowlton family in Reno as the 10th Knowlton. As a weather fanatic, I had checked Accuweather and noted that he had cold icy rain during his visit. When he returned to work I stopped by his office and asked him how his trip had been and he said “OK” and I noted that he probably had had cold wet weather. There was a pause and then he said to me: “Aren’t you going to ask me how I did”, so I said, “How did you do?” and he then told me the story of his Caribbean poker straight flush. “A sucker’s game” he said, not something he would normally have played, but his friends the Knowltons got him to go in, and he bought insurance on a winning hand that gave him $15,000. So, I asked him, “you’ve just won $15,000 in Reno-where are you going to go now” and his answer was immediate and he said-“I’m going to Wimbledon”. And he went to the tournament, sat at Centre Court for the quarter and semi-finals. He loved it and the day I found him in his condominium, a program for that tournament was lying neatly organized on his coffee table. He savored standing in the corner of a practice court and experiencing the speed and power of a serve by Andy Roddick flying at full force toward him.
He loved to dine at great restaurants with friends on special occasions and I will miss my dinners with Ed.
Ed was Irish to the core. He always objected strenuously to being labeled as “Anglo”-“There’s nothing Anglo about me” he would say. Last week when I was helping his cousin Kathy out in his condo, I discovered just how Irish Ed was. Not only did he love to wear his heavy Irish sweater on cold winter days, but his soap of choice apparently was Irish Spring.
Ed was as good a friend and colleague as it gets. Those of us who knew him will miss him forever but we will be glad that we have had the opportunity to have him as part of our lives.