Dr. Don Newbury
Dr. Don Newbury

This is NOT a story about a boy and his dog. Instead, it is a true account of Galveston icon Eddie Janek and his Rhodesian ridgeback, a canine companion nearly always nearby when his 91-year-old master is on the premises.

Without Brownie, Eddie would be “rattling around” in his self-designed Galveston Bay home which he and his beloved wife Doris enjoyed until she became ill a decade ago. She was in a coma for most of that time until her death in 2015.

Ever the optimist, he believes in angels, convinced they’ve always been present, perhaps handling details of Brownie’s entry into his life…..
Someone brought the puppy to Eddie’s door. Emaciated and weighing just 11 pounds, he was at death’s door. “To say he had been mistreated would be an understatement,” Janek said.

Reared by a widow on a hardscrabble farm near West, TX, the diminutive Galveston leader has been on the short end of long odds many times. Standing just 5-1 and weighing 98 pounds, he “fudged” his way into the Navy for service in World War II, then “re-upped” during the Korean engagement. He’d never owned a toothbrush--or used a telephone or indoor plumbing-- until joining the Navy.

As he comforted his pet at the veterinary clinic, perhaps he saw something of himself, silently vowing to help Brownie, as others had helped him….
Brownie has grown into a beautiful adult, ever loyal and ever alert. He’s quick with deep-throated barks when visitors come.

“My companion is all about barking,” Eddie laughs, “Brownie never bites, but he might well try to lick someone to death.”…

Early on, Janek decided to engage a professional dog trainer. Someone spoke of Trelle Dandridge, a 30-something-year-old woman well-known for putting dogs through their paces.

He was shocked at first meeting to learn that she was blind, the result of a terrible automobile accident several years earlier.

Asking if anything could be done, the woman said she’d like to try stem cell therapy in China, but the cost was out of the question. The tab would be $40,000….

Eddie never blinked. He wrote a check for $5,000, then asked friends--including some “deep-pocketed Rotarians”--to join him. Three did, and dozens of others contributed lesser amounts. Within a few months, she was off to China.

It didn’t work, so Janek continued raising funds to finance a similar trip to Taiwan. While not materially successful, the procedure allowed her to distinguish “light from dark, and to see shadows.”

“Getting Brownie and the chance to help this wonderful lady are both ‘angel things’,” he believes. His current project is to raise funds for her to try a new procedure at Mayo Clinic….

Janek is as generous as any person I’ve ever known, and he’s long been recognized for his generosity and involvement in all things good for Galveston.

Some call him “Mr. Baseball” for his long involvement as a coach and backer of youth baseball. Others say the former County Commissioner is “Mr. Galveston.”

Everyone calls him “friend.” He is revered for his dogged determination to “give back.”…

Still active in his telecommunications business, he’s at work most days, but never on his birthday. It’s a huge event.

At age 90, he parachuted from 12,000 feet, with several dozen friends on hand to witness the event. Last year, he jumped from the plane at 14,000 feet, and again, his friends cheered.

Come April 28 of 2019, he’ll head to the airport once more, this time from 16,000 feet. Again a crowd will gather, and again he looks forward to the leap. “I’m hooked up to a veteran for these tandem jumps,” he said. “He’s made 8,000 jumps, so why wouldn’t I be confident?”

I know only snippets of Eddie’s life, but enough to fully agree that angels likely have fluttered around him for a long, long time….