His love for his family. His devotion to his community. And his ever present sense of humor.
Those were just some of the memories shared as hundreds gathered Thursday afternoon to celebrate the life of former Palm Beach State College president Edward Michael Eissey.
“Ed Eissey was more than a man, he was an experience,” the Rev. John Frerking told an audience gathered in the 750-seat performing arts center bearing Eissey’s name. “(He was) more than a collection of stories, he was a legend.”
There was plenty of laughter mixed with tears as family and friends remembered Eissey during an hour-long service at the Palm Beach State State College Eissey Campus Theatre.
Eissey, the third president of Palm Beach State College and first principal of Palm Beach Gardens High School, died Dec. 14 at the age of 89. Pastor Tom Mullins, who once worked for Eissey at Palm Beach Gardens, recalled Eissey’s love for education and for his students.
“Ed never went to one day of work,” Mullins told the audience. “It was always a calling for Ed and he loved it.”
To many in the room, Eissey was the boss who gave them their first job. Or the community leader who served on the North Palm Beach village council.
To Michael Eissey III, he was the adoring grandfather who attended his youth games and beamed with pride.
“(He) would do anything for his children and his grandchildren,” Michael said. “He came to every one of my athletic events growing up. When I would make a good play, he would call out, ‘Whose grandson is that?”
Matthew Eissey remembered his grandfather’s ever-present charm as he worked a room during family gatherings for Sunday breakfast.
“I’ve always and will always want to be more like him,” Matthew said. “He loved people, unabashedly.”
One moment drew a huge laugh as a video of an interview Eissey did with a local television station played on the theater’s big screen. In the video, Eissey spoke of a visit to his office by President Ronald Reagan, who asked to sit behind Eissey’s desk at what was then called Palm Beach Community College
“He said I just want to get the feel of how a real president does it,” Eissey said in the interview.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg was among those attending Thursday’s service. Speaking afterwards, he recalled meeting Eissey 16 years ago as he was preparing for run for a seat in the state legislature.
“He treated me the say way then as he did now,” Aronberg said. “He treated everyone the same way. With humor and respect and kindness. …You wanted to hug him every time you saw because he was so endearing, so funny and so kind.”