That ever present smile and the friendly voice of Eric J. D’Ercole, who usually greeted all those he cared about with a friendly, “Hey buddy,” were noticeably absent from the courtrooms and hallways of the Montgomery County Courthouse last week.
But that trademark, “Hey buddy,” greeting still lingered in the air and in the hearts and cherished memories of fellow courthouse workers who were saddened to learn that the 34-year-old popular court clerk passed away unexpectedly on April 10 at his Phoenixville residence.
“I’m almost 55 years old and whenever he saw me he called me ‘Buddy,’ and when he did I felt like a little girl. I’ll miss that,” a tearful Suzanne Hayes, court clerk for Judge R. Stephen Barrett, said a day after learning about D’Ercole’s death. “He’s the one who would have been here giving us all the hugs we needed today. He would be the one to do it and I’ll forever be grateful for having known him and for having been his ‘buddy.’”
|Eric D'Ercole, background, with courthouse friends/ Submitted photo|
D’Ercole, husband of Rachel (Rosenberry) D’Ercole, was a graduate of St. Pius X High School and was a retired Army veteran, having served in Bravo Company 1-111th IN. Eric worked as the court clerk for Judge Rhonda Lee Daniele.
Many of Eric’s fellow court clerks gathered last week to share tears and seek comfort in each other as they openly reflected upon the man they considered a friend.
Tamara Herder, court clerk for Judge William R. Carpenter, said she remembers Eric “as the person who did everything, anything for anybody.”
“You never saw a frown on his face. Eric and I did have talks and eat lunch together and we would talk about life. Eric would give his last dime to anybody that he thought needed it more than him,” said Herder, her voice quivering with emotion at times. “He was a wonderful father, son and husband. He loved his family.
“It’s been a sad couple of days at the courthouse,” Herder said as she fought back tears.
|Tamara Herder/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
Colleagues recalled D’Ercole was most proud of his toddler daughter, Eden, and was always sharing photos of his pride and joy that he collected on his cell phone.
“You couldn’t get the smile off his face. It was one of the most exciting events of his life,” Herder recalled. “Everything was with a smile. His term of endearment, everyone was his ‘bud.’ He was one of the most caring men that ever blessed my life as a coworker and a friend.”
Monica Pokorny, currently the court clerk for Judge Todd Eisenberg, knew Eric for about eight years. They often worked together when they were rotating clerks before being assigned permanently to one judge.
“He was amazing and a friend to everyone. When you were around him he made you feel happy. Every time I worked with him, before we’d start the day, he’d say, ‘I’m so excited you’re here, bud. We’re going to have a great day bud.’ Everyone was his ‘bud,’” said Pokorny, whose eyes welled with tears as she spoke about D’Ercole. “He would be so genuinely excited to be working with you and spending the day with you. That’s how he made everybody feel.”
|Monica Pokorny/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
Eric, who enjoyed kayaking in his spare time, began his courthouse career working part-time in the probation department’s satellite office before moving on to be a court clerk.
“He was a very nice man and a great person to work with. I was so glad they hired him,” said Deborah Baron, who runs the satellite probation office. “As soon as I heard he was a veteran, that was it, he had me hook, line and sinker. I just can’t thank him enough for his service to our country.”
“He was just a bright light,” said Pokorny, who also once worked in the Clerk of Courts Office and who would see D’Ercole on a daily basis while he worked for probation. “In the mundane of the everyday courthouse he was the person that you saw and made you feel happy.”
D’Ercole suffered a leg injury in a traffic accident many years ago and at one time walked with the aid of a cane. His colleagues said he kept a positive attitude despite some obstacles and was excited whenever he reached a milestone in his recovery.
“He never complained,” Pokorny said.
“You never heard Eric complain about anything and he was probably in pain a lot of time,” added Herder. “He never dwelled on it. He never harped on it.”
Hayes recalled a poignant story that exemplified D’Ercole’s caring nature.
“When my father became ill he ended up needing a cane and he never found one he really liked. When I told Eric, Eric went out and bought one just like his for my father. To this day, it’s my father’s favorite cane,” said Hayes, her voice filled with emotion. “You never had to ask Eric for anything, he just went and did.”
|Suzanne Hayes/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
Ronette Johnson, court clerk for Judge Garrett D. Page, became emotional as she remembered Eric’s generosity, recalling a story several years ago when she told Eric she was taking her two son’s camping.
“I didn’t have a clue about camping and Eric said the first thing is you’re going to need some firewood and he said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to bring you some firewood,’” Johnson recalled.
The following day D’Ercole pulled his pickup truck next to Johnson’s car in the courthouse parking garage and transferred some logs he had gathered to her car.
“I can only imagine it must have taken him hours to chop those logs. One by one he took logs from his truck and put them in my trunk. I had a trunk full of logs,” Johnson said.
“He said, ‘Hey buddy, this will keep you and your boys warm for the weekend. This is good wood, even if it rains it won’t go out,’” Johnson laughed. “He was right. That fire stayed burning and me and my boys had a great time, looking at that fire. I thanked Eric when I got back.
“That’s just the kind of guy that Eric was. He was concerned about me and my boys staying warm and he knew I didn’t know a thing about camping. He made it a little easier for me. He was so giving,” Johnson added.
Personally, I will remember Eric as someone who always had a friendly word to share as I passed him in a hallway. I never heard him say anything negative about anything.
His kindness and graciousness will continue to live on in the hearts of all who knew him.
In the wake of his absence, I urge you all to celebrate Eric’s life with a memory or two today and bid him safe passage. His courthouse family will never forget him.
“We have lost a good buddy. He was a buddy to everyone,” Johnson said it best, her voice trailing with emotion.
Rest in peace, Eric. You will be missed.