In what can only be described as a surprise because he was supposed to outlive all of us, Edward Joseph Fleming IV (“EJ”) died unexpectedly on Monday, August 31, 2020 at his home in Somers, Connecticut.
EJ was born on October 10, 1954 in South Bend, Indiana, to Edward and Mary (Premo). He was raised in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts with a love of the outdoors, an insatiable curiosity about the world around him, a knack for connecting with everyone in it, his dogs (Freckles I and II), and a wanderlust that never left him—telling his father at age eight that he was ready to leave home.
He graduated from East Longmeadow High School where he was an ace tennis player, a record-setting ice cream cone salesman at Friendly’s, an accomplished hitchhiker (making it to California and back, twice), and a highly recruited football player until a fight with his coach cut short an otherwise impressive career. One of the many examples of his healthy respect for authority known so well to those who knew him.
After high school he packed his bags and enrolled at Fairfield University. A sometimes student, as he would say, his real joy was on the ice as a college hockey player, in the hills of Vermont where he spent his summers working, on the road following the Allman Brothers (spending at least one smoky afternoon with Dickey Betts himself), and coming home to see his girlfriend—a shy girl from Somers whom he met as he stepped off the bus back from California. Her name was Barbara (Hallam). She remembers with a smile the overalls he wore, and not being very impressed. They were married on June 3, 1978 at St. Mary’s in Longmeadow.
He received his master’s degree in 1981 from the University of Notre Dame, a place whose significance for him is beyond description. The unofficial mayor of South Bend, where he seemed to know everyone and everything about them; the friend who asked how you were and really listened. He cared, insisted on being present with you, and would do anything for you.
Every memory of the best in him seems rooted there—breakfast on Saturday mornings at the Morris Inn, pregame tailgates and his famous chili, lighting a candle beside him at the grotto. Some of his best stories were there—the house he shared with Mom, the heat of the Indiana summers, the winters teaching local kids to skate, closing down the library every weeknight, weekends behind the bar at Gippers, and meeting Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on their tour bus and, though the Boss was Dad’s hero, making sure he got an autograph for his little brother Nick.
After graduation he landed a job in Chicago, ultimately settling in the northwest suburb of Barrington for the next thirty years where he, with the love of his life Barb, raised their two sons and put their heart and soul into their daughter Abby. He was their coach (“So some other lunatic wasn’t”), teacher, mentor, biggest fan, and bus driver. Everything he had he gave away—his time to the Special Olympics, his wine and memorabilia collections to the fundraisers he’d organize for local youth sports teams, the pet shelters, and the families he’d sponsor each year at Christmastime. And he still found time for men’s league hockey every Sunday morning and a round of golf in the afternoon with his boys.
After twenty years building a successful career in finance, he realized he needed to commit to his calling. He was prodigiously well-read, and a natural storyteller, so he spent the rest of his life writing—on Hollywood, New England history, and as a voice for those who were not heard. All told, he would publish eight books, with the manuscript for the ninth sitting on his desk now.
In 2013 he, Barb, and Abby relocated to Connecticut, back home, closer to the waters that meant so much to him—Giant’s Neck, Point O’Woods, and Round Hill, to name a few. He was happiest sitting on the patio in Somers looking over the valley’s trees, holding court and telling stories of those he loved—whether Barb, his kids, his grandkids, and his friends too many to count.
He is survived by his wife Barb; his daughter Abby; his sons Teddy and Colin; his daughter-in-law Annabelle; his grandkids Clara, EJ, Henry, and August; his father Ted; his brothers Tony and Nick; his sisters Susan and Mary; his cats Lucy, Fat Joe, and Agatha; and his Minnesota dog Arlo, who still looks out the window every morning for the fire engine red Cadillac to come back.
EJ’s visiting hours will be held on Sunday, September 6, 2020 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Forastiere Smith Funeral and Cremation, 220 North Main Street, East Longmeadow. His funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday morning, September 7, 2020 at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, make a donation to the local pet shelter, adopt a cat, call an old friend for no reason other than to ask how they’re doing and really listen to them, try that new recipe, ignore some good advice, adopt another cat, learn something new about where you live, tell a good story or a bad joke, be a little more outspoken, take that golf trip you’ve been meaning to take, drive up the coast with the windows down and Thunder Road turned all the way up.
Life is still good, he’d say. He leaves it to us.