Eric Thomas Payne, 71, was the son of James E. Payne and Bette J. Payne. He was born in Washington, D.C., reared in Indiana and resided for years in Natrona Heights, Charleston, S.C., and Erie. He died peacefully on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Erie.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara (Coffman) Payne; best friend, Harry Coffman; son-in-law, Warren Jones Jr.; brother, Jan Hawley; cat, SnickySnack; grandparents; aunts; and family members found later in life.
Although Eric was a veteran, electrician, postal worker and handyman, his proudest roles in life were that of dad, grandpa and PeePaw. He never met a price he liked but would give his children and grandchildren his last dollar.
He reveled in Sundays when he’d pack everyone in for a Sunday drive to listen to the Prairie Home Companion on the radio, wave to cows, count horses and make everyone car dance — no one was exempt. Pointing to each side, he would test every song with, “disco here, disco there; yep, it’s disco.” After a long drive in “fresh country air,” they’d return home to watch the Wonderful World of Disney and have a Sunday treat (ice cream).
Music soothed his soul, especially memories of his father playing the banjo and piano.
He especially enjoyed the Gaither Brothers, the Vienna Boys Choir, classical music and listening to his kids sing or play Christmas carols and show tunes.
In fact, he could hear his kids’ voices and instruments out of hundreds, something he proved to be true when he became a grandparent.
Eric was a nostalgic man and rarely passed on the opportunity to talk about old trains and planes and make snap and glue models with his son.
He loved itineraries, maps, picture slides and gearing up for family vacations (ah, camping) — a tradition he carried on from his parents.
With his car topped with supplies, tarps, bungee cords, a back seat (and the dreaded middle seat) packed with kids and the trunk filled with a tent, propane grill, lanterns, Bactine and Calamine lotion, his goal was always to leave prepared by 3 a.m.
Memorable trips with his kids include visiting many lighthouses and learning about the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, chasing seagulls and counting mosquito bites at Nags Head, seeing wild horses on Assateague Island, walking the National Mall in Washington, D.C., saving for dinner at the Skylon Tower by Niagara Falls, climbing Clingmans Dome and hiking the Peaks of Otter, visiting family and sites in Roanoke, and huddling up for the annual IUP homecoming parades and Christmas Eve candlelight services.
Despite being known for his dadisms, including “elbows off the table,” “take all you want, but eat all you take,” “stop, or I’ll turn this car around,” and throwing his Terrible Towel (and foam brick) at the television on game day, his kids never wondered if he was proud of them, because he told them every single day. His purpose in life was to be loved, needed and accepted for who he was — an eccentric man who valued his children and grandchildren and treating others as you’d want to be treated above all else.
He is survived by his children, Tracy Weaver (Eric), of Lower Burrell; Michael Payne (Stephanie), of Pensacola, Fla.; Shari Payne (Michael Purvis), of Venetia; Carrie Payne, of Erie; and stepdaughter, Amanda Coffman, of Pittsburgh; as well as his beloved grandchildren, Matthew (Mary), Samantha, Autumn, Calypso, Sophie, Madeline, Evan and Kellan. He is also survived by Faith Payne and his siblings, Nancy Slezak, Jay Payne (Donna), Maureen Allen (Larry), Edward K. Payne (Cathy), Roanna Payne and Ted Payne (Beth); and his beautiful nieces and nephews.
Later in life, he found a home and purpose through church members who accepted everyone as they were. He also gained attention, much desired and overdue gratitude, and new friends, by wearing his Vietnam veteran hat (along with a fun mismatched pair of suspenders) everywhere he went. So, in lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in his name to be made to your local organization that supports Vietnam veterans.
The family plans a private family memorial next year and hopes to scatter his ashes at one of the many houses that brought light. Signing off for now. Ping.
Brugger Funeral Homes & Crematory, Pine Avenue Branch, 845 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16504, handled arrangements. Condolences may be expressed at www.bruggerfuneralhomes.com.