Over 150 people gathered in the Campus Commons Clubhouse in Sacramento yesterday, Sat. June 17, 2017 to celebrate the life of Erin Wheeler Haas. In spite of a temperature over 100 degrees, the clubhouse was surprisingly cool. We had a Mexican buffet with margaritas and sangria.
Erin’s first cousin, Tom Zavadil, who grew up in Albuquerque, but is now from Denver, recited his memories of interactions with Erin on many of his trips to California.
Close up of Tom on the left below with cousin Alan Smith on the right.
Here was Tom’s message:
“For My Cousin Erin
“17 June 2017
“For me, Erin will go down in history as one of life’s Legendary Figures. She made me laugh – a lot of the time when I didn’t even know why. Her shoulder was at the perfect height for me to rest my arm on, and she never hesitated to stick up for me or tell me that she appreciated me. She was just one of those people who delighted me. I’m gonna miss her.
“Erin was charming; she was a very good delegator; she naturally, easily commanded respect. That’s my affectionate way of saying that she was kinda bossy… but then, I like to think I take direction well, so ours became a symbiotic relationship. Many years ago my husband Dean & I attended a conference in San Francisco. Erin was there at the same time so we met up with her and some of her friends at a restaurant near Union Square for dinner. Afterwards, on the sidewalk outside, we hugged goodbye and I watched in awe as she turned, stepped into the street, hailed a cab and was whisked dramatically away – seemingly in a single, perfect, fluid motion. This left Dean and me to make our way, hopelessly unglamorously, back to our hotel on foot.
“During the months after her first cancer surgery, she called and asked us … or maybe a better description would be that she “instructed us” … to come to Davis. We were excited to go and spent a happy week together visiting and talking. She had a bunch of little jobs assigned to us when we arrived: clean out the linen closet, organize the kitchen cabinets… she sent us off to IKEA to get her a desk (which Paco very enthusiastically helped us assemble). You know: The Usual. I think we got most of it done.
“She was just like she’d always been – one afternoon we were in her car on the freeway heading from Sacramento to Davis. She’d asked me to drive and I was very cautious because my long legs barely fit under the steering wheel and it was awkward to reach the brake with my foot. She thought I was driving too slowly and was unmoved by my frivolous concerns about braking. “If you go fast” she said “you’ll pass all the other cars and you won’t need to use the brake.”
“She did have some trouble at that time recalling names, words or parts of a story she’d be telling. She kept saying it “must be the swelling” from her recent brain surgery. She repeated this phrase so often, and in such varied circumstances that Dean & I started to tease her about it: “I can’t find my keys! Huh… it must be the swelling” “I’m hungry! Oh, you know… it must be the swelling” “Are we out of milk? Aw man, it’s gotta be the swelling.” About a week after we went home to Denver she sent Dean a couple of frozen Mail-Order-Thank-You-Pizzas (she said they were low-carb). The gift message on the box – which I cut out that day, saved and retrieved from our garage last weekend so I could quote it exactly – read “Dean, for you and TAZ. There are no words to say thank you… I could, though it must be the swelling”
“She called again a couple years later and we came back. That time she had us rearranging furniture, washing dishes, folding laundry and walking Tommy to school in the mornings. She kept saying, with great sincerity, “While you’re here I want you to have experiences that you can’t have at home.” To her apparently that meant going to Trader Joe’s and using the touch-screen soda machine at the taco place… I think she sent us cookies when we got home that time.
“I’ve been imagining Erin these last two weeks – telling the angels how best to smooth the feathers on their wings, setting up a schedule for cloud-fluffing, and suggesting to St. Peter a few ways to streamline operations at The Pearly Gates.
“In other words, I’m sure she’s made herself right at home. ”
Thanks, Tom, for sharing your memories. And thanks to all of Erin’s friends and family who came to share celebrating Erin’s life.