Friends and family remember Ed “EJ” Pape Jr., for his kind heart, baseball prowess, humor and ability to meet a challenge head on.
Pape Jr., 46, passed away on Dec. 10 in Valencia after suffering a ruptured aorta two weeks before. He had lapsed into a coma after surgery. He had had a couple of strokes and severe brain damage and was taken off life support.
After high school, he attended USC, but due to financial reasons, he transferred to Los Angeles Valley College where he received his Associate of Arts degree. He then transferred to the Master’s College in Newhall, majoring in leadership and public management, and received his Bachelor’s degree in 1992.
Pape Jr. became a police officer in 1994 with the Los Angeles Police Department and worked patrol assignments in North Hollywood, Van Nuys and the Foothill areas. He later became a staff researcher in the Management Services Division prior to returning to the Van Nuys area as a senior lead officer. He made Captain and was last assigned to Operations-Central Bureau.
Over the last eight years, he was taking night courses at USC where he received his master’s degree in leadership in public management. He continued his education at USC, receiving a doctorate in planning and development.
He was a huge golf enthusiast, said his father Edward Pape Sr., and was hoping after retirement to join the Professional Golf Assn. Senior Tour.
“And the type of person that he was it wouldn’t have surprised me had he made it,” the senior Pape said. “He was a go-getter. He was never a procrastinator. When he had a challenge in front of him, he always took it and I’d say probably 99% of the time he succeeded.”
Pape Sr. believes he inherited that determination and strong values from his fraternal grandfather who was a self-made man.
EJ’s first challenge was baseball, which he began at age 2 playing with plastic balls and bats. At age 4, he’d play in the front yard every day with the neighborhood kids twice his age.
“They loved him!” Pape Sr. said.
When he turned 5, he wanted to play with the Burbank Park and Recreation Hap Minor League, but he was too young. But Bill Burton, the head of the sports program at the time, told the senior Pape if he were to help coach a team, Burton would allow EJ to play.
“From that time on I was his coach until he went into high school,” he said. “He always played with kids one or two years above his age group. I always felt for him to get better, he had to play against the best.”
That philosophy bode well for him because he was the first freshman to play at the varsity level in baseball at Burroughs, his dad said.
He was named Most Valuable Player and made First Team – All League his senior year as well as lettered all four years in baseball. He played third base, short stop and second base throughout his high school career.
“He had a good reputation in baseball at John Burroughs,” his father said.
His biggest thrill was when he was a freshman. He hit a home run against a senior pitcher who just happened to be the son of baseball Hall of Fame player Orlando Cepeda.
EJ illustrated his strong determination his senior year, Pape Sr. said, during a game against Hart High School. Burroughs was behind by five runs. He had a broken fibula and was on crutches. Coach Nags asked Pape Sr. if EJ could pinch hit. Dad left the decision up to his son.
“So EJ puts the crutches aside and goes up to the plate and could hardly stand on two feet, and I don’t know if it was the first or second pitch, but it was bases loaded and he hit a grand slam. He tried to run and we were all yelling at him ‘you don’t have to run, walk it!’ and he somewhat trotted around the bases. It was probably one of the biggest thrills for me. Burroughs lost but he had brought the score up so they only lost by one run.”
Another of EJ’s attributes was to always protect the underdog.
When he was just 7 or 8 years old, he was suspended from school for fighting, his father said. But the fight was with an older boy who had been bullying a younger boy.
“His motto throughout his lifetime was to serve and protect,” Pape Sr. said.
Family friend Rich Torrez has known EJ since he was a baby and later assisted Pape Sr. coaching the Little League team.
“When he was starting to play Little League baseball, he was a couple years younger than the other kids on the team,” Torrez said. “He didn’t want to play T-ball. He was competitive and he was good.”
Torrez said one time EJ got mad at him while he was coaching a Little League game. He had a good eye for the strike zone, but the problem was he would always “take” the third strike pitch instead of hitting it and would be called out because the umpire didn’t agree it was a ball.
“He’d get so mad and he’d come off the field and I’d say ‘EJ, you’ve got to go after those pitches. They may be a ball but the umpire is going to call a strike if it isn’t,’ ” he said. “He got mad at me and said ‘How come you don’t tell the other players that — get mad at them?’ And I said EJ you’re better. The other players are doing the best they can but you are a better ball player. So he thinks about it and says ‘Yeah, you’re right’ and he walks off happy.”
Off the field, EJ was a staunch conservative and Republican. He never drank and never smoked. He and Torrez, a Democrat, would have lively political discussions and EJ voiced strong opinions on how the government should be run.
“I remember talking to him as a teenager, he’d come off as a real conservative and I teased me saying he was a lot like that Michael J. Fox character, Alex P. Keaton, on the TV show ‘Family Ties’,” Torrez said. “EJ thought about it and said ‘yes that’s me’.”
He had a lot of charisma, Torrez added. When he was in a room packed with people, you knew he was there.
After high school, EJ continued to play ball but joined his dad’s men’s softball team. He preferred hard ball, but joined the team so he could play side-by-side with his dad.
He was proficient in baseball, golf and bowling, but he was never good at ice skating. And his sister, Shelly, wanted him to go skating with her in the worst way, their dad said.
For the love of his sister, he would go but could only hold on to the side railing.
“He would do anything for his sister,” Pape Sr. said.
That bond withstood some trying times. For example, once EJ broke his sister’s toy by accident.
“She was so mad at him that she went into his room and picked up one of his toys he really liked and took it to him and asked him ‘do you like this?’ And he said ‘sure’ and she snapped it in half.”
He just stared at her and asked her why she did it, and she said because he had broken her toy.
“Instead of getting mad and hitting her, he said ‘OK’ and just let it go. That was how much he loved her,” the senior Pape said.
They were such best friends that Shelly asked EJ to be her maid of honor at her wedding.
To which he quipped “I don’t have to wear a dress do I?”
Until his dying breath, the bond was there.
“Even in the hospital, when Shelly entered the room, EJ perked up,” Pape Sr. said.
The family always knew when EJ was coming for dinner because his mother would make his favorite dish — homemade enchiladas, Pape Sr. said.
He is survived by his father, Edward Sr., and mother Leuonna; his wife, Kim; daughter Amanda; son Brian; sister Shelly Pape-Lee; grandmother Mary Eversull; niece Alexis and nephew Troy Lee; and son-in-law Chris Lee.
The funeral service was held on Dec. 20 at the Hall of Liberty in Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. Internment followed.
It was a touching moment, Pape Sr. said, when the pallbearers were carrying the casket out of the hall, people were holding up the Victory sign as a recording of “Conquest” was playing followed by the USC “Fight Song”.