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caption: Fadel Erian as a young engineer. Erian passed away from Covid-19 near his home in Kennewick on March 25, 2020.
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Fadel Erian as a young engineer. Erian passed away from Covid-19 near his home in Kennewick on March 25, 2020.
Credit: courtesy Erian family

Fadel Erian, 82, former Hanford engineer

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In the last official job of his engineering career, Fadel Erian helped develop a way to safely store nuclear waste at the Hanford site in eastern Washington.

But his dream project tied back to his homeland in Egypt, where he wanted to dredge silt from the Nile River and use it for farmland near the Red Sea. It’s a project he continued to pursue up until his death. Dr. Erian contracted Covid-19 at a rehabilitation facility near his home in Kennewick, where he was recovering from a broken leg. He died on March 25 at Trios Health Center. He was 82.

His son Neil Erian shared his thoughts about his dad’s final days with KUOW Editor Liz Jones.

“H

e loved traveling. He had been to many different places in the world, and he always really enjoyed the process of getting organized and getting ready to travel and doing it right.

Whatever the goal was, it always had to be done in a good and organized way – that’s the way he was.

As a college student, he graduated at the top of his class and I believe he was basically given a scholarship by the Egyptian government to get his PhD in engineering in the United States.

He was very consistent in his interest in improving the world, so that’s one thing I would say I'm most proud of.

As a father, he really wasn't around much for me or my sister, so there isn't all that much I can say about that. But we tried to stay in touch and I’d try to see him as much as possible in the last few years because I have a daughter, and he loved his granddaughter and wanted to spend time with her.

caption: Fadel Erian, 82, passed away from Covid-19 on in Kennewick on March 25, 2020.
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Fadel Erian, 82, passed away from Covid-19 on in Kennewick on March 25, 2020.
Credit: courtesy Erian family

He’d broken his leg and had been at a rehabilitation center in Kennewick close to two months, and everything was going fine. But that’s when this virus hit. I didn't realize how much danger he was in. He and several other patients there, I think, came down with the virus. And within three days, he was gone.

He passed away so suddenly and I just felt very unprepared to deal with this, I guess that was the most shocking part. And then I couldn’t go see him – that would’ve been the normal thing that I would’ve done but that wasn’t possible.

We couldn't have a funeral or memorial because people can't get together and that makes me kind of sad. I think it's better to be able to have a memorial service as soon as possible after a person passes away, but we haven't been able to do that.

I am planning to take his ashes to Egypt. His last wishes were to have his ashes sprinkled over the Nile and I’m going to do that but I don't know exactly when I’ll be able to. I've been to Egypt twice in my life -- both times with my dad -- and he wanted to take his granddaughter there next December. We were hoping to be able to do that, so that's a big, sad thing that we can't.

He really had this idea of thinking globally, but acting always locally– talking with the people who are the nearest to you and getting people interested that way. I think he really had the right idea about that. He led a Great Decisions group in Houston, where people basically got together once a month to talk about foreign affairs. That’s something he really enjoyed and he was very knowledgeable, especially about the Middle East.

He was just an all-around interesting man and it’s nice to know that he was well-liked and well-regarded by so many people. I’m very happy to know that.”

You can read more here about Fadel Erian’s life and career.

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