Editor’s note: Eric Myrkalo died at age 60 on July 29, 2015. Despite having passed, he is being featured in the Clarion’s Senior Spotlight as a way to honor Myrkalo’s life.
Eric Myrkalo lived a colorful life, but he was the first to tell you that it wasn’t an easy one.
In the mid-2000s, Myrkalo had both legs amputated—first his right in 2004 and then he left in 2006—which resulted from his having diabetes. It was after his first leg was removed that Myrkalo came to New Community Extended Care Facility to receive care. He returned to Extended Care for a second time earlier in 2015.
Robert Smolin, administrator of Extended Care, described Myrkalo as a person who has displayed “lots of courage.”
Born and raised in Newark, Myrkalo said he came of age during a time when public parks were purposefully flooded during the cold winter months so that neighborhood kids could come out and ice skate.
“Newark changed so much, I’m telling you,” he said wistfully. His father worked for the city of Newark as an inspector and his mother had friends here, so Myrkalo’s family stayed anchored in the Brick City.
The middle sibling of three children, Myrkalo attended Mount Vernon Elementary School and later went to Vailsburg High through the tenth grade. After getting booted from his high school (due to being labeled as a “disrupting influence,” according to Myrkalo), he bounced from West Side High to East Side High. A mischievous grin slowly spread across Myrkalo’s face when he recalled antics such as climbing atop tall structures in town and eluding the police who gave chase.
A career automotive mechanic, Myrkalo said he first got his start at age 16 while working at a gas station. “I was minding my own business pumping gas,” said Myrkalo, when his boss took leave for vacation and left the teen in charge of the entire gas station and repair shop. Myrkalo quickly learned that he could earn a solid livelihood and worked at the Mobil gas station for the next 10 years, until the land was sold to a church.
While working part time at the gas station, Myrkalo enrolled at a vocational school, where he worked and studied at the same time, he said. He worked at several other gas stations and auto repair establishments, where he enjoyed a good living. “I was making serious money,” Myrkalo said.
Intern Katherine Angulo contributed to this