Deceased September 14, 1998
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Everyone in our class knew the name, “Malinowski.” It was the name of a famous anthropologist and author of a book that was assigned reading for history. A few of us also knew Ed Malinowski, our classmate who was in for some good-natured ribbing as “Bronislaw” because of his name.
Ed was my friend. In our freshman year, we found each other across the hall on the third floor of James. During sophomore year, now both Independents, we both lived in South and often met for dinner as soon as the doors opened. It is the nature of some Independents to be, well, independent. Ed and I were like that. We had a casual, cordial relationship. He loved a good laugh, and so did I. I enjoyed having a good friend who seemed to accept me as I was; I tried to return the favor. He was easy-going and unpretentious, humble in his own way, and although quiet and unassuming, not calling attention to himself, he appeared to be comfortable with himself and in love with life.
In one very significant way, most of us who knew Ed when we were eighteen or nineteen—young rams with active hormones—envied him. That was because he had already progressed beyond the dating game. He could afford to be amused at those—most of us—who lagged far behind him in that department. Whether he called it “engagement” or not, I cannot remember, but it was the functional equivalent of engagement to all appearances. He was devoted to his high school sweetheart in nearby Hatfield, Massachusetts, a young woman named Connie. Letters passed between them almost daily. I remember reading later on that the inevitable and predictable had happened—they had married. Ed probably participated with others, just for the fun of it, in rating young women who entered Valentine Dining Hall using the “milli-Helen” scale—one point for every ship the Smith or Holyoke student allegedly might succeed in launching. But the truth of the matter was, he never had eyes for anyone else. Connie ranked one full “Helen” on his personal scale. Ed had resolved that issue long before he was matriculated. God, how I envied him!
If college opens up a world of possibilities, it also humbles us and introduces us to our limitations. Unlike many, myself included, Ed didn’t have far to go down the latter road. I distinctly remember his words, wise beyond his years, uttered one day as we walked toward Fayerweather Hall and the Science I lecture. He said, “Before we came here, we were all world-beaters …” The rest of his words were to the effect that we’ve learned something here about our limitations. The truth is, he had learned that lesson much better than I and, I suspect, many others. He was very capable, but he was also very humble.
To my regret, I was too much of an “independent” and too engrossed in my life to stay in touch with anyone, even one of my best friends ever, Ed Malinowski. Even though it is too late to make up for that, I can almost hear Ed dismissing such an expression of regret, for reproach lasting more than a moment or two—either of self or others—seemed alien to his nature. Those who remember Ed had experienced his character, and therefore knew the trajectory that he was on and can surmise the full life and destiny that he reaped.
Perhaps it is never too late to say, “Thank you, Ed, for your kindness and friendship. May your family find consolation because you, a good and large-hearted man, was theirs to know and cherish.”
Dennis Ridley ’64