Last week, my friend Edgar Peara died at the age of 92. He was the oldest man I ever had the pleasure of knowing and spending time with during the twelve years he lived in Oregon.
Ed was energetic (running daily and doing his age in real push-ups!), kind, generous, creative, intelligent, and spiritually "awake." He was a volunteer extraordinaire -- working for over 40 local organizations (including the "dirty" work of digging and lifting) -- and giving financially to many more nonprofits every year. In addition, he had a counseling practice, wrote a religious column in the local newspaper, delivered talks at area churches, and mentored people who wanted to learn to do metaphysical therapy.
I first met Ed over 30 years ago while I was living in the Chicago area. At the time, I only knew him as a Unitarian-Universalist minister who I saw occasionally at meetings and at the annual U-U summer camp at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. To my surprise, over 12 years ago, we met again at a church in Eugene. He and his wife, Phyllis, had moved here to be live closer to one of their sons and grandchildren.
I asked Ed if he would be interested in joining a men's group that I had started in the early 1990's. Thankfully he said "yes" and I got to see him for breakfast every Tuesday. I got to know Ed and hear about his life and contributions to our community during those early morning conversations. Unfortunately his hearing became more difficult over the years and he decided it was time to leave the group. I saw him much less after that but we kept in touch by email and occasionally met at church or at monthly art walks (where he always had a new joke to share).
Of men I who have been my friend, Ed lived the most amazing life of service. In the military in WWII, he served as a combat engineer in all five "theaters" of war, including Utah Beach on D-Day. He likely may have been the only man to survive that much military duty during the war. His war experience led him to become a founder of Veterans for Peace in our community. (In 2011, Ed was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his military service in France).
Ed became a minister in the 1960's and served several Unitarian-Universalist churches during his career (he was active as well in the Unity Church during his time in Eugene). He also taught human development courses and had a therapy practice. For six years, he was a single father to four little boys before meeting and marrying Phyllis (a single mom with fours kids of her own). Phyllis was a great partner -- as active as Ed during their 41 years of marriage before her death. More about Ed's work and home life is contained in a talk he gave to ministers two years ago.
More than anyone I've ever met, Ed really knew that he was a "spiritual being in a physical body." His spiritual practice was impeccable and lived out in his daily life of service. Ed was always supportive of my work, expressed how much he valued our friendship, and voiced his love for me and my life partner. In so many ways, he also helped heal old wounds from my father with his loving presence in my life.
Ed Peara's legacy will live for generations. I loved the dear man and will miss him.