Von Fuhrmann had an impact on countless students during his nearly 50-year tenure teaching English and Humanities. However, he also touched the lives of many employees at a downtown Evansville business. Now those employees are setting aside a special place to remember his life.
At Ri Ra Irish Pub, the bar stool on the far left of the first floor bar belongs to Eric von Fuhrmann. "When we had our five year birthday party we wanted to do something special for him and one of our other regulars, and so we had their names engraved on their chairs -- which tickled them both," says bartender Jamie Hager. "We always saved that seat. No one was allowed to sit there."
Hager reveres von Fuhrmann as one of her "best regulars." She says she's spent an hour or two with him every Thursday for the past five years. The pair would chat at length as von Fuhrmann sipped his black and tan, occasionally requesting a refill. During that time their bartender-patron relationship grew into a friendship. Von Fuhrmann would often ask Hager about her little boy and bring him sweets and gifts. It's friendships similar to the bond he shared with Hager that Ri Ra employees say will make his empty seat particularly difficult to fill.
"We knew it would never be the same here at Ri Ra without him and so we memorialized him by putting his picture by his seat where he sat ... and we're leaving his beer out every afternoon for him, and we're putting chocolates out to remember that he always brought us some kind of sweets and chocolates," says Hager.
Von Fuhrmann was more than a patron to the employees -- he was a friend. "It's really hard. We certainly feel a big whole here, but Eric was strong and it's nice to look at [his] picture and see his strength and remember everything that he gave us," says Hager, her voice full of emotion.
Even still, she says it's hard to find words to describe a man of so many words. "It's really hard to talk about Eric as he was known for being a great orator," says Hager, adding that even during casual conversation her beloved regular's diction was, "a step above everyone else."
Lauren Leslie, also a Ri Ra employee, became acquainted with von Fuhrmann as a regular and later studied Humanities under his instruction at USI. "He made it very interesting for his students and we learned so much. He was one of a kind, that's for sure," remembers Leslie. "He was so passionate about what he taught."
She adds that one of his lessons sticks out in her mind -- perhaps now more than ever. "He would always talk in class about we live and we die and his hope was to leave behind a legacy," explains Leslie.
She and others who thought fondly of the professor say von Fuhrmann's legacy is clear. "He was the most perfect example of life. He had so much experience and just so much wisdom," says Leslie.
Hager says, "He definitely left a presence that no one will ever forget." Those who knew him remember him as a beloved regular, an inspiring professor, and a friendly soul who touched the lives those around him.
The University of Southern Indiana says von Fuhrmann requested there be no formal obituary or memorial service following his death. Those who knew him may donate in his memory, through the USI Foundation, to Sigma Tau Delta -- an English honorary founded and sponsored by the longtime professor.