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Remembering Doc Edgerton-- an act of kindness

The loss of Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton, Institute professor emeritus of electrical engineering, has caused great pain not only to the MIT community, but also to the thousands of people around the world who had a chance to be associated with him during his life. His admirable work is well known and respected, but I am not sure how well his charming, warm personality is known. He was one of the most warmhearted people I have ever met, and I would like to share my memory of him.

On a late May afternoon two years ago, I was walking on campus, crying. I was very upset over something and was taking a walk alone. Suddenly, someone stopped right in front of me. I looked up and saw a smiling face -- Dr. Edgerton was there. He asked me if I was okay, I nodded still in tears. Then he started walking, pulling my arm. I was surprised and asked him where we were going, and he said we were going to his house.

When we arrived, he introduced me to Mrs. Edgerton and told her that we were having dinner together. Again, I was surprised. I didn't want to cause any trouble for her, for I was sure that she had prepared the dinner just for the two of them. But she smiled and divided the dinner into three. The meal for each seemed small, and I kept worrying if they would be hungry later on. As for me, it was enough then because their warm-heartedness had already filled my stomach full.

After the dinner, he went under the dining table and asked me to come under as well. I wondered if he liked to rest under the table after meals, but I soon found out why. There were a lot of writings on the reverse side of the table: many of them were the signatures of people who had visited, some with greetings. He gave me a pen and I wrote my name in Japanese.

After he showed me his "kitchen" filled with films, I found out that he was also a good guitarist and a singer. He took his guitar and sang a song for me. The song was called You are my Sunshine. He taught me the lyrics and I wrote them down. Then he said that sunshine was not supposed to cry, I was very moved by his warmth and his way of cheering me up.

Dr. Edgerton and Mrs. Edgerton then took me to my dormitory. I still remember them walking slowly back to their place together, holding hands.

After that day, they invited me over several times. Sometimes, they would give me take-home food so that I could have it for breakfast. Dr. Edgerton told me that I was his first Japanese granddaughter and when he called me, he would say, "Hi, this is Grandpa Edgerton calling."

I had been on leave for more than a year working with my mother in Japan when I heard the news of his death. I could not believe it since he sounded happy and healthy in November when I called him. In February, I came back to my Boston house and found his voice on my answering machine. It still remains on my tape.

In our lives, we seldom meet people who really touch our heart. And to me, he was one of the few. I greatly miss my beloved "Grandpa" Edgerton, like those who were also touched by his warmth during his life.

Yu Hasegawa '89->