I don’t quite know how to deal with this. I usually don’t have to, because death is something I don’t normally have to confront.

In my mind, death seems unifying, which is odd considering how depressing the grieving process is. People die unexpectedly sometimes, leaving family and friends to deal with the realization that someone they care about is now gone forever. Life finds a way to move on, however, even in the toughest of situations.

A good friend died about a week ago, but he wasn’t the kind of friend one would expect a college student to have. He was a local, who was brought up in the area, and who raised a family here. This man was Daniel Jan Walikis and at the age of 71, he was one of the most jovial and youthful people I’ve had the pleasure to know.

I don’t fully remember how I met him, but it was without a doubt through the radio station WHRW, which has been my second home on campus for going on four years. I was most likely around the station one Tuesday night my freshman year during his regular broadcast. He hosted a weekly three-hour show dedicated to ethnic Eastern European tunes, which ran for over 23 years without fail. He even prepared prerecorded shows when he had to be out of town.

Something about his youthful nature and bright spirits must have guided me in his direction.

We became friendly and I made a goal to be around the station when he came in each week. Regardless of how down — or elated — I was already feeling, Dan managed to boost my mood tenfold. Whenever the wheels of his wire cart rolled into the lobby each Tuesday night filled with carrying case upon carrying case of CDs, a calming and rejuvenating air came over the station. Smiles were abound as “Dan Jan” returned for another of his many shows.

Dan managed to connect, respect and deal with all incoming, current and outgoing station members and whatever drama arose. He called the general managers “Mr. GM, sir” out of respect for the position, even though he had a good few decades on pretty much everyone in the station.

When I interviewed him my sophomore year for a profile piece for a journalism class, I remember how he championed music therapy. The theory behind music therapy is that listening to good music, even during surgery, can have beneficial health impacts, including needing less anesthesia.

Dan’s anecdote called back to when he went in for ambulatory hernia surgery in 2007. He brought his iPod into the operating room against the wishes of his doctor, but with the approval of the anesthesiologist. The following day, his prescribed Vicodin found its way into the toilet to the shock of his wife, Rosemary. Five days later Dan wheeled his cart into the station, and the GM at the time asked Dan when he was going in for the surgery.

“It was last Thursday,” Dan replied.

What more can be said about such a wonderful man?

One of the last memories I have of Dan is giving him a goodbye hug while leaving the station as he was getting things set up for what would be his final show. He gave his usual goodbye, about staying healthy and all. I walked off with a backwards glance, a wave, and thought nothing more. At the time, I simply knew I would see him the following Tuesday.

The next time I saw him was on a Thursday, at his wake.

I’ve never been so emotionally distraught in my time at Binghamton, as I sat at Dan’s wake and funeral. Does he know that so many people — including listeners he has never met — will miss him? I hope he does.

With a heavy heart, I say goodbye to you, Daniel Jan Walikis. Goodbye to you, “Station Grandpa.” You lived a very rewarding 71 years. And in your own words:

“Until we meet again, so long for now, take care of yourself, smile more and always, just always, please remember to keep a song of your own heritage in your heart.”