Tribute to Walter Babian
On Saturday afternnon, I received the call that I had been dreading for most of the week. After a two week illness, our associate and dear friend, Walter Babian, had passed away in Tulsa after suffering a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve. I had spoken with Walter the day before on Thursday, December 23rd. . He was looking forward to 2006 and a trip we had planned to Asia. He was relaxed, happy and said he felt the best he had been in years. He wished everyone at Eli’s a happy new year and congratulated everyone on the great progress that we had made throughout the organization. I felt very happy after talking with Walter as he saw our achievements and our opportunities for the coming year.
Walter was there for us from day one in the history of our business. At the time that we started to bake cheesecake, Walter had recently sold the lease of his family’s popular restaurant, Charmet’s, at the corner of Michigan and Chicago (now Ralph Lauren) to the First National Bank of Chicago. His apartment was around the block from Eli’s the Place for Steak and Eli’s was his dining room and living room. It was natural that Eli would share his thoughts on the future of the cheesecake business with him and that Walter would offer to help us—in whatever way we needed it—whenever.
We have been blessed as a company and as individuals to have the Angels that Eli’ sent. Both Buddy (Glenn Schulman) and Walter were there for many years after my dad died to give us important counsel and advice. What distinguished Walter, Buddy and Eli was that none of them grew old in the most important sense–their minds. Each of them embraced new ideas, new people and new opportunities.
The photos below cover a number of years of our life with Walter; with Rita, with Hal at Eli’s the Place for Steak, at the NRA Show over many years, in Asia with me in 2003 (Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul all in five days) and a trip with Boris to Anuga this past October. Walter just didn’t age, had the energy of someone half his age, and loved life. No one could sit in a negotiating session longer with an international buyer than him or close the dining room and then the bar at Eli’s or any hotel in the world
Funeral arrangements are pending. We look forward to participating in those events and then to creating a Eli’s tribute to Walter that will honor him in perpetuity and let remember his love of Eli’s, his love of life, and the affection that he had for all of us at Eli’s
Thank you Walter!