Phindie is mourning. The performing arts lost a vocal supporter and the world lost a vibrant presence last weekend. Editor-at-Large Henrik Eger died on Sunday, January 3, 2021, after being admitted to hospital for a heart condition several days earlier. He was 79.
Henrik was born in German-occupied Paris during World War II. His father, a journalist, served as a propaganda officer in occupied France before being sent to the Eastern Front, where he was killed. Henrik was raised by his widowed mother in Bavaria and then Wuppertal in West Germany. Encouraged by a British soldier, Henrik learned English and moved to England in the early 1960s.
Friends of Henrik in his later life would frequently hear stories detailing his early years. His father’s membership in the Nazi Party inspired a lifelong interest in Jewish literature and theater and a commitment to human rights, pacifism, and anti-fascist politics. His uncle helped him obtain his first job, as a book store apprentice, a position that solidified his love of writing and literature. His experience as a young homosexual in conservative postwar Germany was formative, as was a longtime relationship with an aristocratic English partner.
He spent much of his life in academia, earning bachelor degrees in England and Germany, three master’s degrees, and a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1991 for the thesis Writer Perception, Writer Projection: The Influence of Personality, Ideology, and Gender on Letters of Recommendation. He wrote numerous articles, chapters, and textbooks, and taught English, writing, and ESL in six countries—Germany, England, India, Sri Lanka, USA, and Iran—amassing several lifetimes’ worth of experiences and stories along the way.
Among these, he was proud to have worked as a German translator for Martin Luther King, Jr., in the mid-1960s; he corresponded with Noam Chomsky in the late 1970s as he edited a book of linguistic poetry dedicated to the famous professor; and he was teaching in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution.
He moved to the Philadelphia area in 1992 and worked until retirement as a professor of English and Communications at Delaware County Community College in Media. A lifelong lover of creative arts, he became an enthusiastic booster for local theater. He gave speeches and workshops at the Media Theatre and Hedgerow Theatre, served on the board of Theatre Ariel (Philadelphia’s Jewish theater company), was active for many years with the Alliance for Jewish Theatre, spent five years as a judge for the Barrymore Awards, and wrote reviews and features for such publications as the Armenian, Broad Street Review, Broadway Stars, Broadway World, Classical Voice, Dance Journal, DCMetroTheaterArts, The Forward, Jewish Voice, Jewish Post & Opinion, Philadelphia Gay News, New Jersey Stage, Talkin’ Broadway, and Windy City Times.
After retirement, he focused on his own creative writing, which he published along with academic and popular articles on his website Drama Around the Globe. His most successful play, Metronome Ticking, juxtaposed extracts from his father’s wartime diary and correspondence with contemporary remembrances by a Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor. Premiered in 2006, it was performed in the United States and Germany, most recently in 2015.
Henrik lived in an elaborately and idiosyncratically furnished house in Upper Darby, where he was a frequent host to writers, actors, creatives, and a cast of international friends, and where he celebrated a joyful annual “Victorian Holiday” party. He will be warmly remembered for his sincerely welcoming greetings, his supportive and attentive generosity, his intelligence and insight, his unignorable cheerful presence, and his gentle, loving spirit. Over 400 people left testimonials to his life on his frequently updated Facebook page, including former students, members of the Philadelphia theater community, and people who had only casual encounters with the remarkable, singular gentleman.
Henrik began writing for Phindie in 2012 and contributed over 160 articles. His final piece was published the day he went to the hospital for emergency aortic dissection repair. He never recovered from the operation.
He was predeceased by his mother and younger sister, but is survived by a niece and cousins in Germany and by scores of admiring friends across the globe. His adored dog, Niko, has been rehoused with a loving family. Henrik will be much missed.
A virtual memorial service is planned for Sunday, January 17, at 5 p.m. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and sign up here to attend: lehigh.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QOK-w6P1Sl-2-eOGd29vkA