Eric and Anna Garvin are long-time residents of the Hammock in Palm Coast, where they retired nearly a decade ago after Eric’s career as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and with Northrop Grumman, the military contractor, starting another career in transatlantic philanthropy.
He is the executive director of Cross World Africa, an organization that helps lift Kenyans out of poverty through food banks, education and scholarships.
Today, Garvin was traveling to Chile with his daughter to recover the body of his son, Eric Eugene Garvin, 38, after learning that he had been murdered in a shooting on the streets of Santiago, the Chilean capital, on Jan. 14. The report of the younger Garvin’s death ripped through the community here after Eric Garvin Sr. posted the news on his Facebook page and the African American Cultural Society, where he is a member, disseminated the news this morning.
“As I write this post, my heart and Anna’s heart are very heavy. This is the darkest chapter of our lives because we are living every parent’s worst nightmare,” Garvin wrote. “Our son, Eric Eugene Garvin went missing in Santiago, Chile on Saturday, Jan 14th in the evening. He was doing what he loved to do, which was travel was abroad. He’s likely been to more than 40 Countries. Eric was 38 years old. On Saturday, January 21st my wife Anna and I received tragic news from Chile. Our son was finally found by the Santiago Police in a hospital morgue.
“Preliminary reports suggest that as my son went out to dinner in downtown Santiago, he was shot multiple times while being robbed by 3-4 guys. My son was alone.”
Garvin is working with officials from the American Embassy in Santiago to “begin our journey to justice and to bring Gene back home,” though information about the murder has been scant, he said. The family referred to the younger Garvin as Gene.
Gene was a Staten Island resident. He was on a Latin American trip with a friend, on his way to Argentina after Chile.
A Chilean news outlet on Monday reported on the murder, including surveillance video from a lobby of the building where he was staying, of what appears to be Eric’s last moments alive. He was found about half a mile from the building.
“Eric Garvin’s crime occurred on the night of January 14, raising a series of questions regarding the chronology of the murder,” the outlet reported. “His body spent more than a week in the Legal Medical Service without being recognized, however, a friend was able to corroborate his identity and give certainty about his passage through Chile.”
Chile is not reputed to be a violent country. To the contrary. It is among the least violent capitals in Latin America. The murder rate in the country is less than half that of Florida, and is considerably lower even in the capital.
For Eric Garvin, his son’s loss is the latest in a series of family tragedies dating back to his childhood. In a profile of Garvin in the current issue of Sun and Surf magazine, a local publication, Garvin describes growing up poor in Brooklyn, with his father spending several years in jail and his mother getting shot six times. The experiences shaped Garvin’s emergence from poverty and his commitment to a life of service.
“You could not find a more outstanding person, he and his wife Anna are absolutely outstanding people,” Joe Jones, president of the African American Cultural Society, said this morning.
Rob Whiting, a long-time friend of Garvin’s, had traveled with the entire Garvin family–Gene and Naomi, his sister included–to Ghana about two years ago, when Gene was working in the mayor’s office in New York City. “We were in Ghana for about 15 days back the year before last, and I got a chance to really spend quality time with Eugene,” Whiting said. “I had met Naomi a number of times with her coming down here for a number of functions. It’s just an outstanding family. I just remember him being just such a wonderful young man, in fact I commended Eric after we spent a lot of time together: man, you have a wonderful young son.”
Garvin had texted news of his son’s disappearance to Whiting last week, before following that up with the grim revelation.
Whiting, like Jones, like Ralph Lightfoot, another member of AACS, echoed the shock reverberating through the community at the news. Whiting only recently had received an account from Garvin of his latest trip to Africa, prompting him to write his friend: “I feel it’s an honor to know you, I’m just so humbled to know a person like you who has not only been able to do well in the system, but is giving back, the way that you give back. It’s a tremendous honor to just know you and to be your friend.”
Garvin concluded his own message to the community today: “Anna, Naomi and I have received an abundance of love, prayers and donations, which we profoundly appreciate. We are speechless about this amazing outpouring of love. The first few days we couldn’t see any light in this tragic news, but today we are beginning to see a glimmer of light and hope. Your prayers and your love are helping us [to see] the light again.”