EUGENE, Ore. — The Egan Warming Centers have been open for five seasons now, in large part to Maj. Thomas Egan, a man few knew until his death back in 2008.
People gathered in the Whiteaker Neighborhood Monday to celebrate Egan’s life. They’re using his passing as a way to educate the others about an ongoing need in the community.
“We pause in this moment to remember the life of one who served his country well and who died alone on a cold night here in this place,” said Rev. Dan Bryant.
There were few left in Egan’s life at its end, and those who remained couldn’t believe the news that final day.
“I told the medical examiner. I said to him, ‘But you’re mistaken. He wasn’t homeless. You know he lived. I know where he lived. I’ve been writing him there. I visited him there in May,’ and he said, ‘No. He was homeless.’ And I was totally shocked,” said Egan’s friend Kate Saunders.
Friends knew him as an intelligent and articulate man whose love for liquor was just part of his downfall. With no place to go that cold December night in 2008, Egan froze to death on this street during a snow storm.
“His death five years ago prompted the creation of the centers that bear his name and birthed a coalition of organizations and a cadre of dedicated volunteers. Not on our streets. Not in our cities will someone die because they had nowhere to go,” said Kitty Piercy, Eugene Mayor.
And while he may have died with next to nothing in his name, now he is survived by a legacy born from his death that keeps teaching, even though he’s no longer here.
“What it told me is that we need to make certain that we’re aware of people in need even when they don’t ask for it,” said Egan’s friend Pat Farr.
The Egan Warming Center now boasts more than 900 trained volunteers, more than 400 of which helped keep folks warm in the last eight-day activation. The program is made possible by their time and needed donations from the community.