My last day job prior to retirement was as the Safe Environment Coordinator for the Diocese of Green Bay. My office was in the Chancery building. The timing of my retirement was seasonally driven. I decided the previous January that I was not going to miss one more October. October, or more precisely, that golden two or three weeks of October, when the mornings are clear and crisp with a touch of frost, but the afternoons are golden and warm in splashes of sunlight playing with the leaves – yellow, red, orange shimmering in the light breeze, are my favorite weeks of the year. And each year as I push deeper into my 60’s they seem to be over quicker and quicker. I had a deep spiritual desire to be out in each and every minute of them for as many times around as I still have left.
I had been busy documenting processes and getting as many big projects finished off as possible so the next ones in line could keep the ball moving forward. It led me into contemplating the concept of legacy. Legacy, as defined as, the lasting impact of one’s existence on others. That has also got me thinking about E.K. 1929 more often.
The Green Bay Diocesan offices are comprised of a campus of four buildings. Many people are not be aware, but the site used to be an orphanage. That is why some of the ceramic tiles on the walls are still decorated here and there with caricatures of boys and girls and toys and animals. I have heard that some folks while working late after dark claim to have heard the echoes of children running the halls. I have only encountered E.K. 1929.
I suppose to make it easier on the children to move from building to building during the season of winter snows in the old days, there are some underground tunnels that connect some of the buildings. The door at the end of the hall on my floor in the Chancery led into a tunnel that connects it to Melania Hall. I knew about the tunnel for a couple of years, but I had no interest in going in it until I started counting steps. The Diocese, like many employers these days, offered an insurance incentive for those who are more active. One way of demonstrating your activity is to wear a device that counts your steps each day. My device sets two daily goals: to walk at least 10,000 steps in total, and to walk at least 250 steps for each of the nine hours of the work day. I discovered a couple of winters ago that it is about 280 steps from my office, through the tunnel to the door leading into Melania and back again. It was handy when it was cold and snowy and slippery outside to walk the tunnel each hour rather than brave the parking lot.
It was on one of my first walks in the tunnel that I encountered E.K. 1929. The initials and the date are chiseled into one on the concrete blocks that make up the wall. They are about four feet off of the ground. Their height, and the fact that it would have taken some strength and real or makeshift tools to chisel the date, suggest that they were carved by someone who was at least a teenager. I suspect E.K. was a boy. Maybe it’s sexist, but it just sounds like something a teenage boy would do.
So, who was E.K. and what was his life story as it played out nearly 100 years ago in 1929? He obviously wanted to make his mark – literally – that he was here. He was a real person. He mattered. He had hopes and dreams and fears. How many of them were realized?
I asked Olivia who worked in Archives if we had records that would perhaps put a face on E.K. She thinks it’s possible. I haven’t had the opportunity to explore those records yet. There are limited name possibilities with the letter “e”, so it may be more likely to pin the initials down. I’ve told several others who work at the Curia and pointed out his mark. I’m a little surprised that I seemed to be the only one there at that time who had even noticed them, as everyone I have shown them to were surprised. Maybe a retirement project may be to find out more about E.K. and what legacy he left in life. So far I settled for praying an “Ave” for him each day as I passed by E.K. 1929. Perhaps that is legacy enough – that someone noticed you were here; that someone remembers; that someone prays for you.