When Eddie Basha passed away on March 26, our Vincentian family lost one of its most kind and caring supporters. The Phoenix Diocesan Council will never quite be the same.
Over the years Eddie helped to raise millions of dollars for St. Vincent de Paul. He donated countless truckloads of food to our kitchen, and he regularly volunteered in our dining rooms, serving meals, washing dishes, sweeping floors, and visiting with the homeless and working poor, offering them dignity, love, hope and respect.
Eddie organized many events, including Turkey Tuesday, the largest one-day turkey drive in the country. He wrote letters, gave speeches, and even chaired the capital campaign that built our Dan O’Meara Center. He did all of this so that the Vincentians would have additional resources to assist those less fortunate, so that more people would have a chance at a decent life. He did all of it quietly and humbly, preferring instead to let others take the credit.
I will be forever grateful for the friendship and support Eddie showed me when I joined St. Vincent de Paul more than 16 years ago. My very first week as a Vincentian Eddie came to see me – in my office. He talked about the Society. He spoke of men and women like Matt Scott, Dan O’Meara, Terry Wilson and Nancy Spencer, Vincentians who had done so much to build the Phoenix Diocesan Council into the outstanding organization that it was. Eddie impressed upon me the responsibility we both had been blessed to inherit; me as a Vincentian executive director, he as a Bashas’ CEO. He revered those who had gone before him, and he felt a heavy burden to continue their legacy. He told me that if the Society ever needed anything to be certain to call him. This was in the days before cell phones, so he made sure I had his direct line at the Bashas’ corporate offices as well as his home phone. Not even once did he ever let the Vincentians down when I called to seek a favor. Not once. Eddie would call me regularly, especially in those early days, just to be sure that all was well. After a few years he started to call me “Brother.” “Hello, Brother.” “God bless you, my Brother.” I consider that one of the special honors in my life. I can actually hear him say it, even today, and I still get a tear when I think about it.
Eddie was so proud of his family. He loved to bring his sons with him to tour our facilities and attend our events. I often heard him impress upon them the responsibility they each had to help those in need, just as generations of Bashas had done before them. I suspect that his extreme generosity was partially the cause of his stores more recent financial challenges. He simply chose not to say no to a worthy cause, or to a person in need. While the accountants may have questioned a few of his decisions, somehow I think that God was very pleased.
Eddie loved the prayer of St. Francis, and he was fond of saying, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” On more than one occasion I walked into our chapel and there was Eddie on his knees in silent prayer, all alone with our Lord.
For all his financial generosity, what I will remember most about Eddie was the way in which he treated others. You would have thought a clerk in one of his stores was a senior executive, or that a homeless person was a powerful politician. That was his most special gift, the way in which he treated everyone, with dignity and respect, and love, and compassion – all of the time! We can all look to Eddie as the Gold Standard when it comes to how we treat one another. Even when he disagreed with someone, he treated them with the utmost respect, knowing that they were made in the image and likeness of Christ. I’m going to remember that, and commit to being a better person. I had a wonderful mentor and teacher in Eddie. In fact, I had the best. I owe him as much.
I will never forget a time Eddie was leaving the State Capitol. As he drove down Jefferson Blvd. he noticed that the line outside our Henry Unger Dining Room was longer than usual. He pulled over and called from his car asking, “What can I do to help?” Two days later we received a check in the mail with a note to use the funds to feed those who have to wait in line to eat. I’m sure thousands of people drove by our dining room that day. Eddie was the only person who stopped to help.
How ironic that the busiest of all people was the one who made time to reach out! He was the Good Samaritan of our time, and it is impossible to recount that famous Bible passage without thinking of Eddie. He will indeed be missed, by those who were blessed to know him, by the Vincentians he so faithfully served, and by the untold thousands who never knew that it was Eddie Basha who provided their most recent meal.
God bless you, Brother, and welcome home, good and faithful servant.