Eric Stieffenhofer almost made it to his 81st birthday. He liked marking milestones and he had had many in his life. You couldn’t sit in his and his wife, Bernice’s (Bee’s), living room without him pointing out to you his wedding picture proudly hanging over the mantle.
Married for 56 years, he always said it was destiny because you could find the letters of his name, B E R N I C E. A real love story they had. They met at the Fairmount Wallet factory where they both worked. In fact, they were both engaged to someone else. Eric was right about that destiny – they broke off their engagements and the result was five children, Lori, Krae, Beth, Mark and Tara and 12 grandchildren so far.
Initially settling in the Hunting Park area, the family moved to Northwood in 1974. They liked the diversity of the people and had very good neighbors. Beth tells the story of one of the neighbors asking about Eric only to learn that he had really just died. The man stopped and stood in the middle of their street upon hearing this news.
Eric would stop many people walking by as he sat on the front steps. Whether he knew you or not, he soon had you engaged in conversation. You would think you knew him all your life. No matter how he was feeling, Eric always wanted to lift others up. He would do that with a joke. Even the way he told them, you were intently listening until the punch line.
Truly, Eric put the “Pop” in “Pop Pop” as the grandchildren called him. Pop Pop would do the silliest things to keep them entertained. They loved to be with him and his family was most important. He would wrestle with the kids and always showed an interest in whatever they cared about. His granddaughter, Megan, would do puzzles with him on the iPad. His family just loved being with him because he was so much fun. He knew a lot about sports and there’s a lot you can learn from the game shows that he and Bee would watch. Eric was a favorite uncle, too. Eric loved parties and dancing; he knew how to enjoy life.
Eric and Bee were VIP’s, very important parishioners of St. Joachim. I used to see Eric at Mass, and he struggled with health issues that would have stopped anyone else in their tracks, but he was able to keep going.
During one of my visits, he showed me how he kept up with all the Keep the Faith in Frankford news on his iPad as we worked to reopen St. Joachim. I was impressed. Eric took the closing of the church, very, very hard. In fact, his family felt that when his beloved St. Joachim closed in June, 2013, that his health declined further as a result. He truly believes St. Joachim will reopen. He recounted a vision he had one day and told me he knew the Church would open again. I believe, Eric and we sure are trying!
Eric had special powers. One of them was his sense of humor, a gift he shared freely with all those he came into contact with. His son, Mark, during Eric’s funeral Mass, began a eulogy to his father by telling all gathered a joke. That made us all feel a little better. We all smiled. Eric was still lifting us up and reminding us to smile. We won’t forget to “hear the laughter”, Eric, and we won’t forget you either. You are a part of all of us. There won’t be much resting in peace in heaven as you’ve already had them laughing with a few good jokes!