byTerri J. Michos
My first memories of Fadel are sitting in the back at an EUU retreat and being both charmed and alarmed by his occasional commentary. Fadel was one who could turn on the charm, and also go on the verbal offensive for those things he felt passionate about.
It was my husband who connected with Fadel first, in part due to their backgrounds: Mehmet was born in Turkey and raised in a bi-cultural family in Germany, while Fadel grew up and attended university in Cairo before moving to the U.S. to continue his education. They enjoyed exchanging knowledge of religion, geo-politics and history, and when Fadel offered a workshop, Mehmet was likely to attend.
The wonderful thing about EUU retreats is that you can get to know people gradually.
Over the years, we sought each other out for a meal. We traded grandchildren stories, lamented together about the trajectories of Egypt and Turkey and talked geology, geo-engineering and geography. In Dijon we literally broke bread and had a lively discussion with Tom Klingl, a fellow geographer, about Fadel’s work in dredging the Nile and piping its fine silt to the coast of the Red Sea to create arable land. His ashes will most fittingly be spread over the Nile.
As our relationship developed, I could admonish Fadel when I thought him too harsh a judge, and he would just chuckle. He volunteered support and resources when I was working on European Unitarians Together in 2019. He very much would have liked to have attended this gathering in Berlin, but he was recovering from surgery after injuring his knee in Cairo. I feared it wouldn’t meet his high standards; though, in retrospect I believe he would have enjoyed it.
Fadel was a wonderful mentor to his students and a man who cultivated and maintained friendships, of which he had many around the world. He contacted me to contribute to the Keating’s farewell gift and ask for their address in the U.S., so he could send them a welcome home card. I arrived in Florida one time to find a letter from him, which warmed my heart. This was typical Fadel.
Curiously we never talked about being UU, and I only recently learned that he had been a president of the EUU and active in our congregation in Amsterdam, NUUF.
As his body aged while his mind remained sharply intact, we would give him a lift to the train station or help him navigate steps. He was humble and grateful. I feel honored to have known him, and our lives were enriched by his friendship.
9 May 2020
To learn more about Fadel’s life, see https://obits.syracuse.com/obituaries/syracuse/obituary.aspx?n=fadel-erian&pid=195806954&fhid=31153.