Our Fallen Hero, A Tribute to Eric
When Eric and I met online in 2002, on our first date, I did not think I would see him again. However, our love for jazz and technology turned our first date into 5 hours of connection, laughter, and fun. When we married in September 2005, we had jazz as part of our special day and started our adventurous life with jazz as the soundtrack.
Eric loved producing innovative, dynamic jazz events. It was something he talked about on our first date. Shortly after we married in 2005, Vertical Group Jazz (VGjazz) was established by Eric, bringing together the most dynamic, innovative jazz performances in New York City. I remember one particular event VGJazz produced in New York, the Urban Jazz and Arts Series (UJAS). Putting together UJAS was a lot of work, but Eric was always about community. He knew by teaming up with the best event planners, public relations specialists, venue owners, and culinary experts VGJazz would produce exceptional performance experiences in comfortable, mature environments, with positive communication, progressive networking, and social exchange for all jazz enthusiasts. Even with all the work, Eric wanted to do more. After every event, he said, "Let's do another six weeks." And I would say, "We need a little break."
Eric's passion for jazz made me fall in love with him even more. Every day in our home, cars, and outings, it played in the background, wrapping us in its arms as Eric wrapped me in his. We continued doing events for years, then took a little hiatus, but we knew we would restart again. And in late '2019, we planned to do so. Then, COVID hit, which halted everything but did not dampen our dream. It just delayed it.
In 2020 we got an opportunity to move to Amsterdam for work and knew that this adventure and location would be a perfect restart to take VGjazz global. I went first, and Eric would come along a little after me. We finalized Eric's move to join me in Amsterdam in January 2021. At this time, Eric complained that he was experiencing back pain. The COVID-19 pandemic is underway, and doctor's office visits are limited. Eric got a virtual visit with his physician and was told, "It is probably arthritis." Eric had previous knee and hip surgery, which sounded logical, so he decided to swim it out and thought his exercise routine would help to relieve the pain.
In early February 2021, Eric saw his gastroenterologist for the removal of his gallbladder, nothing major; gallbladders are removed all the time. He had a clear colonoscopy and started to schedule the removal of his gallbladder. Things were seemingly okay, so we moved ahead with plans for our new adventure, living in Amsterdam with VGJazz in tow.
Three weeks later, things took a 180-degree turn when we received the news that Eric had stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which had spread to 7 organs, and was inoperable and incurable! And NEVER expected to hear his doctor say, "we missed it." After trying to grasp the incomprehensible, we buckled up for what was to come, both emotionally and physically. Eric fought hard with his family, me, and a team of healthcare providers by his side in Atlanta and Amsterdam. He never gave up and never relented. On September 5, 2021, just six months after his diagnosis, Eric passed away on a beautiful Sunday morning in Amsterdam. After his death, I vowed that no one would have their diagnosis missed. I would do all I can to provide awareness and knowledge, especially in minority communities, so they can be pancreatic cancer advocates. The Eric and Deborah D. DeWitt VGJazz Foundation was born for this purpose.
Our love for music started in our childhood, continued in our love, and lives together. We believe that music is crucial for childhood development. The foundation will also support organizations and programs that focus on childhood music education. Now the legacy will continue, providing awareness to save lives, supporting innovation for early detection and molding future generations with Eric watching and jazz continuing to be the soundtrack.
We hope you join us with your support.
Our Vision, Mission and What We Support
Empowering and Saving Lives, Molding Future Generations and Continuing The Legacy.
Honoring Eric by Supporting Pancreatic cancer awareness and early detection.
Our vision is a world where every individual, especially those in minority communities, has access to the resources and education needed to fight against pancreatic cancer, and where every young person in under-resourced groups has an opportunity to cultivate their creativity and passion for music. We envision a future where the impact of our financial support has led to breakthroughs in pancreatic cancer research in early detection, testing, and innovative music education programs, ultimately creating a healthier and more vibrant global community.
Our mission is to provide vital financial support to organizations that are dedicated to advancing pancreatic cancer research in early detection and testing with an emphasis on minority communities, while also promoting music education for youth. We strive to empower these organizations to make a meaningful impact in their respective fields, and to raise awareness about the critical need for continued research in early detection, testing and education in these areas. Through our efforts, we hope to improve the lives of those affected by pancreatic cancer and to inspire the next generation of musicians and music enthusiasts.