Ephrahim Garcia,Phd 51, of Cortland, passed away September 10, 2014 in Syracuse. NY.
Written by Isaac Garcia, son and eldest of the departed. A public wake will be held at Wright Beard Funeral home from 4-7pm on Sunday, September 14th. The funeral will be at 10am on Monday the 15th at St. Mary’s Church.
How do I begin to write the obituary of my Father? He was also a Son, a Husband, and a Brother, a Thinker, and a Leader of Men. His authority came from the blunt force of his intelligence and his wisdom. Where should we start – his age? It is far too young to go at fifty one.
We could try and narrate his life: he was born at St. Luke’s on 110th Street, New York City, to Cuban immigrants (fleeing the coup), Efrahin and Zenaida Garcia, father and mother, my father Ephrahim the second of four brothers – the other three: Louis, George, Alex. At the age of eight, he and the rest moved Seaford on Long Island, attending Island Trees School. From an early age he shined as a particularly bright spark, a brilliant student and a star athlete in football and track. My father was tough, smart, he flew the coop to go to college, the first Garcia to go. At SUNY Buffalo, he soared, finding his way to a PhD and the love of his life, his wife, my mother the doctor-to-be Anna Marie. Together they went to Vanderbilt, he to teach, and she for her MD. And then together they had me. Somewhere during that time he started a company – Dynamic Structures and Materials. It still exists today. He was exceptional – is exceptional. He’s still present in so many things, in all the things he left behind. He was named a National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellow in 1993 by President Clinton. He was only thirty at the time, and suffering cardiomyopathy. I was a baby. He was supposed to die then and there. But he sprung back, and during his recovery, he would lie on his couch in his office, still working. I thought he could beat anything thrown at him. Anything.
When I was five or so, we left Nashville for the Chesapeake – Ellicott City, Maryland – a midpoint between Baltimore and Washington. He worked at DARPA, my mother was doing her residency at the University of Maryland. And yet they found the time to give me a little sister, Sarah, a January child of the new millennium (who today is only fourteen). He worked wonders in Washington, making science fiction a reality. He began work that continues to reshape our world, like the Human Exoskeleton project, which today is helping paraplegics walk again. And he carries secrets of the state with him to the grave. As a kid, I thought he was the coolest person on Earth. Finally, he was given an offer to teach again, this time at Cornell. So we moved to Cortland and have lived here ever since. My mother and father built a home together, and founded Renaissance OB/GYN together. He looked out for Sarah and me. He made sure I went on to a good school, that Sarah did well in hers. He spent his last years, his golden years, giving us anything a family could ever ask for. I owe him everything. We will never reconcile his absence.
But how can I make you know what he was like? You can never know. My words could never match his presence. He was vitality itself, the flame that burned brightest. As I struggle to write, I sit in his study, my back facing a wall of books, his interests – his so many interests – pouring over every shelf, knickknacks from the world over tucked in every nook, on every free patch of wall. He read everything. Every spine here is bent. 70s Star Trek paperbacks, worn from adolescent dreaming, paving the way to the thick tomes of Cervantes, pages coated in another century’s dust – next over, Ayn Rand lining that slim volume of Marx I bought him just to bug him. Then Jefferson, then Douglas, then Guns Germs and Steel, and a thousand volumes on Rome. He loved history and the future most of all. H would always say that he would rather have been born in another era, anytime but the present. He wanted to conquer frontiers, but instead the world gave him a map with every corner filled in already. And so all his life he dreamed of the stars, of our place among them, and he did his part trying to bring us closer to them. Next to works by Hawking stand books on the evolution of Man. Engineering was his profession, but his mission was the destiny of our species. On the cherry shelves of this carved room he collected himself, and it is here he left himself behind.
He was the most stubborn man alive. I would argue A. He would argue B. But even if I was unconvinced, he always put me on my toes, forced me to the top of my intelligence. Those who didn’t understand what lay within often couldn’t handle him. His rough edges could rub hard, but if you listened, they made you sharper. Strong words carried delicate truths. But he was funny, and unapologetic. The way he spoke, he could say anything and did say anything – to provoke, to get a reaction from he who does not get it. But underneath, however he might talk, he had a way of quietly occupying the right side of history. His heart burned with the most genuine compassion for his family, for his friends, and for his fellow human beings. Sometimes that fire could singe you, but you were a fool to think it didn’t keep you warm. And you knew without a doubt that you were loved.
He always made me feel that everything would be alright. I still cannot accept that he is gone. I will forever carry a hole in my heart. It was the cruelest of ironies that his stroke should have taken out the piece of his brain that gives us speech. I thought I’d never hear his voice again. Worse, we were afraid it might not be him in there anymore. But in his last three weeks, he strained and strained to put the neurons back in place, moving paralyzed limbs, physically forcing the words out over an uncooperative tongue: “I. Love. You.” That bed, the tubes, the masks, monitors, and restraints, they did all they could to hide the man we loved. But when you looked him in the eye, and he looked back at you, it was him. You knew..
Memorial contributions in Ephrahim Garcia’s name may be directed to the
University of Buffalo Foundation, PO Box 900, Buffalo, New York 14226.
To offer online condolences visit www.wright-beard.com