By Jerry Eagan
I heard this week from Harry Alexander, engineer for "Voices of the West," that my friend Emil Franzi died June 7 of complications of his esophagus cancer.
I was in a procedure, same morning, at Mountain View Hospital, Las Cruces, to get a "jump start" on a defibrillator I had installed April 3, for my heart. June 7 would've been the 70th birthday for my dearable wife Dorothy Eagan. Emil called in in 2008, I think, out of the blue, wondering about an article I'd written about the Chiricahua Apache warrior, Jolsanny or Josanny or Ulzana. He wanted to know more about it. Emil said he liked that I actually "hiked Apacheria," rather than just read about it. In fact, beginning in 2002, when I first came to Silver City, I began "Hiking Apacheria," and then wrote 31 or 32 articles for The Desert Exposure under that column. There were others. In those days, that paper had an editor who gave me 3000-3500 words to flesh out an article. The last article I wrote was about a man who had landed at 4 D-Days, including Normandy, and survived, without a scratch. William Odell Maxwell. My Dad was in the Battle of the Bulge and after Europe, sent to Manila for the Invasion of Japan.
Neither Emil or I ever felt the dropping of the atomic bombs were a mistake.
Emil had a brother who was with the 7th Armored Division, I believe, who was involved with the relief of Bastogne, in WW II. My Dad was in the Bulge, too, as was a man who married a cousin who was a WAC. Emil read many areas of history. He focused on various Native American tribal warfare with Spanish, Mexicans and Americans. I focused only on the Chiricahua Apaches that had an area that extended from the Rio Grande to the Whetstones. Emil and I were as different politically than fire and water. I was just another liberal. He was just another conservative.
But Emil and I had many, many good discussions on the Apache wars, etc. We both looked at WW II as quite a deal. He loved opera. I loved Wagner. He was more into the Italian opera, but knew his classical music as well. He had many fine shows on "Voices of the West." Some of the interviews he conducted with me were laid down on podcasts. I know that Emil helped me build up a nice small following in Tucson. I know that my wife's Ovarian cancer was shocking. I'd nearly died with myocarditis and been on life support. Emil helped me find some cardiologists in Tucson and eventually the best thoracic surgeon in Tucson gave me a new heart valve. My wife died 24 February, 2014. I miss her dearly, but know she liked Emil and enjoyed him and his energy.
Emil's daughter (the doctor) was another source for me when the oncologists in Tucson told me she had "weeks not months" to live November 1, 2013. It seemed clear to me Dorothy was going to die. It is an echo of how medicine has changed from 1984 till now on the treatment of esophagus cancer. I was happy that Emil was the beneficiary of the changes in the treatment of esophagus cancer. My Dad was lucky to get six months to the day from diagnosis to death. Emil was quite a unique character. He had plenty of guns.
He told me once that either he had a BAR or someone he knew had a BAR. I always wanted to fire one of those. One of the finest guns of WW II. I don't know if anyone has any information from the time his brother was with the 7th Armored Division, but Emil told me that during the Bulge, and later, if the Americans ran into "Hitler Youth (Jugend) or SS fighting them ... the Americans just killed them." They were two fanatic groups and weren't trustworthy. Emil left a huge legacy behind him in those years. In the same year that Emil "found me" on the Internet, Brian Huberman, a professor at Rice University, called and asked if he could come out and "hike Apacheria" with me. Over these years, that has turned into a documetary that covers much of Apaheria. www.brianhuberman.com and my Apache articles are located at www.desertexposure.com/ apacheria.
Even more on Mangas Coloradas are at Silver City Independent, but they aren't on line. Contact them here in Silver City and maybe they'll send you some.
I have legacies that Emil Franzi knew of and referred to in our discussions. He appreciated my getting out there and exploring Apacheria. Emil and I never hiked Apacheria, but he sure inspired me to keep doing that. I think we both knew that the complexities of the American-Apache interactions were rough and changed America as the last war between hostiles who ultimately fought Americans down a nub neither side could sustain much longer.
Emil's work will exist forever on podcasts and his columns that he wrote constantly. I'm glad I knew Emil. It was with a sad memory that Dorothy would've been 70 on June 7, and Emil left this world the same day. I personally believe they are up there, together, and will greet one another sometime. Their intelligence and good spirits will go on and on ... shooting stars streaking across the dark night sky of the Southwest that we have over us here in Grant County, New Mexico. That's one of the finest features of being in teeny town, New Mexico. God bless Emil.