I was twenty years old when I walked into Wagner Ford to find my scoutmaster cleaning the floors. He looked and smiled at me with the grin you couldn’t forget. I was shocked to learn that this man who was larger than life for me was just like all of us. For a long time, I thought of Eric as a CEO of a large global enterprise, or a politician. In my world he held that stature of incredible importance. It didn’t matter what Eric did for a living, because he didn’t allow it to define him. It’s what made him great.
I had six years of scout training under Eric and although he passed on the torch to Bob Young before I became Eagle, Eric considered me one of his boys, in fact his the last one. It was something that he wouldn’t forget and his pride in having 13 Eagles during his time as Scoutmaster wasn’t something that he allowed to go to his head, but it was the lives he touched that mattered. I kept in touch with Eric upon getting my Eagle and Eric became a friend for life. Upon getting together, he would run through a list of everyone in his life, starting with bride, Anne, to his 3 sons who he was so proud of, to the grand kids that he loved dearly, to the many updates of the scouts still in his life.
Then, it came back to me. He always wanted to know what was going on in my life, much like he did in the formable scout years, giving me wisdom and helping me navigate through decisions I needed to make. And we always spoke about peach cobbler and pot roast in the Dutch oven. During my scout years, peach cobbler was important for me because I learned that if I could clean his dishes, the reward Eric had for me was a bowl of his famous cobbler. But more than that, it was access to my Scoutmaster that made it worth it. You simply wanted to be with him. He had this way.
Eric helped me learn how to be a man, how to serve in my community, how to give back. Eric taught me to listen to the birds and enjoy the diversity that was all around us. He taught me how to honor and respect a person in uniform, and always give to those who serve our great country. He taught how to be present in the life of my kids, and that it wasn’t the big house, the nice cars, that mattered. It was how you touch lives that counts the most.
Words can’t express how sad I am with Eric’s passing. My prayers are with the entire Hellwig family and I hope that you all know how important Eric was in some many lives. It’s a legacy.
Tuesday February 6, 2018 at 8:45 am