Eric Goldschmidt: He seized the days that were too few
Eric Goldschmidt, who aspired to become a professional photographer, was on the path to do just that.
Photos by the 22-year-old from Westport provide evidence of a young man with an artistic eye. The 2007 Staples High School graduate photographed postcard-worthy shots of a beach scene or a man fishing in a stream behind Clinton Avenue. But he could also find beauty in the not-so-picturesque, using his Nikon to shoot abandoned buildings and salvage yards. In 2006, he was a finalist in the Connecticut 4th Congressional District Art Competition. A year later, he received an honorable mention in the Connecticut Scholastic High School Art Competition.
Clearly, the young man had talent, but he also had cancer. On March 9, he succumbed to the disease, with which he was first diagnosed 18 years earlier. In December 2008, a brain tumor that had been in remission returned, and three different chemotherapy treatments proved unsuccessful. Goldschmidt, who wanted to attend his college graduation ceremony this spring with his classmates, fought the cancer as long as he could. He died at the Connecticut Hospice in Branford after two and a half weeks.
Monika Goldschmidt, 19, Eric's sister, said one thing she will remember about her brother is his dedication to education.
"Even when he was going through treatment, in and out of school, he was still focused on going to school and continuing to graduate," she said.
In fact, although Goldschmidt, who was working toward a BFA degree in photography at the Maryland Institute College of Arts in Baltimore, who had periodic checkups and was treated at Children's Hospital in Boston for most of his life, decided to be treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore while attending college, even though the medical staff at Children's Hospital was more familiar with his case. He didn't want to miss any more time off from school than he had to. The two hospital staffs sometimes had differing opinions on treatment, but Goldschmidt wanted to be treated close to his college campus.
Marcella Korn, Goldschmidt's academic adviser, said Goldschmidt not only enrolled in the highest number of credits allowed the semester after a grade-two cytoma was found in his brain, and initially did well. He also volunteered as a stage crew member for the school production of "Hair," during the same time he was undergoing chemotherapy for the tumor.
"He and I met every few weeks through the semester to check on his status," said Korn. "He never missed an appointment, never missed a class, never missed a rehearsal or show, and never considered dropping any of his responsibilities."
One college professor told Goldschmidt's father, Patrick, that his son did more as a student while under treatment than most of his classmates. He had a way of making an impression on people. Patrick said his son was polite to a fault. Even when he was hospitalized, he would preface a question to a nurse with, "I'm sorry to disturb you."
As for his photography, Goldschmidt got a lot of early experience at Toquet Hall, Westport's teen center, taking photos of bands that performed there. He later became the center's event manager, booking musical acts.
"He was a very nice kid, very talented," said Toquet Hall Director Kevin Godburn. "He was very creative, very reliable. If he said he was going to come and help out, he'd be there."
Godburn recalled, "I could be up in my office and knew when he was here. The kids would scream his name, other high school students or performers. Goldschmidt was the brains behind a multi-band event in 2007 called The Imagination Summit. He booked Uncle Monsterface, a band that incorporates puppetry, as well as a costumed character, into their show; Math the Band; Lima Research Society, and Lemon Demon, a group that releases its music on YouTube along with animation.
"It was one of the few shows Lemon Demon played live," said Godburn, adding that Goldschmidt had a knack for getting unique acts to keep things entertaining for the teen crowd.
Godburn said Goldschmidt was laid back, fun-loving and "seemed to get along with everybody. ... He made it fun for me to go to work," he said. "We could meet our tasks, our objectives, but have fun doing it."
Goldschmidt served on Toquet Hall's governing board and was later elected to serve on its executive committee, which had spots for only four teens. Even after Goldschmidt went to college, he didn't forget Toquet Hall. He'd often pop in when home from school and help out.
Staples High School Principal John Dodig also remembers Goldschmidt fondly. Not long after Staples was renovated, Dodig arranged for student art to be displayed in the main lobby.
"One of the selections that caught my eye was Eric's," said Dodig. He soon realized the photographer was a student he was already knew.
"He was one of these kids who makes himself known to members of a particular department -- in this case, art -- because of his passion for the subject," Dodig said. He added that Goldschmidt was relatively quiet in the hallways, but when among fellow art students and teachers he could be very loquacious.
If photography was Goldschmidt's first love, music was a close second. In fact, through his son, Patrick Goldschmidt became a fan of Cake, the White Stripes, Zero Seven and Snow Patrol. When Goldschmidt, as a high school freshman or sophomore, wanted to go to his first concert in New York City, Patrick was hesitant to give permission, but as a compromise, he tagged along.
"I really enjoyed it," he said. "It was a really good concert and I appreciated his musical tastes." Patrick said his son's favorite bands were Cake, Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros.
While father and son shared music, Goldschmidt, who also loved the Boston Red Sox, usually attended baseball games with his mother. Quarterly medical checkups between 1993 and 2008 -- after his brain tumor was operated on and partially removed -- brought him to the Red Sox's home base. His sister remembers some of the visits to Fenway Park, which included stadium tours.
"I liked going with him and I could tell that he loved it," she said.
Goldschmidt's love for photography, music, the Red Sox, and even the family dog, Lucy, has helped to forge many good memories of the young man.
Monika, during a phone interview Tuesday, called Lucy her brother's dog. "Well, it's the family dog, but he's the reason we got it, and he took the best care of it," she said.
Patrick said that was typical of his son. He put his all into everything he did.
A celebration of Eric Goldschmidt's life will take place May 21 in Toquet Hall, with details to be announced later. Memorial contributions may be made to the Susan Fund, Inc., 8 Hilly Field Lane, Westport, CT 06880, or the Staples Tuition Grants, P.O. Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881.