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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

‘More than a grandfather’

Alex Dragulescu rarely captured his dad Emilian looking directly into the camera; the 74-year-old Chelsea resident was too in love with his family to risk missing even the simplest moments.

“We were looking at all these old photos of dad with his grandkids, and he never looks at the camera,” said 45-year-old Alex, scrolling through old scanned photographs of his dad on his laptop. “Because he’s always looking towards the kids.”

These are the memories that Alex, his sister, Liliana, and their mother, Elena, are holding close as they grieve the sudden death of their father and husband. Emilian Dragulescu was struck and killed by a motorist on Hwy 105 on March 22, while walking his family dog, Shadow. His tragic death has left a family in sorrw and a community in shock.

“It’s so hard because he was the kindest man ever,” said a grief-stricken Liliana, 45. “He was one of my best friends. I could talk to him about anything — even about boyfriends, and he would always tell me not to worry. He always supported me.”

Several neighbours spoke of seeing Emilian, the “friendly old man,” out walking the cute black and white, scruffy pooch regularly, usually three times a day along Hwy 105.

But there was much more to the friendly Chelsea elder than his love for the outdoors, his Portuguese water dog and his family. Emilian was well-respected among his peers as a brilliant nuclear physicist, who held a PhD in Experimental Nuclear Physics and later became the principal researcher at Horia Hulubei National Institute for R&D in physics and nuclear engineering in Romania.

The family lived “not an easy life” under communist rule in Romania, where Liliana said she remembers owning only one pair of shoes and that the family had no bank account, just a “month-to-month” government stipend. But despite growing up under an oppressive communist dictatorship, Alex said his parents built a life where he and his sister could dream of bigger and better things.

“We never felt like we were in this totalitarian regime because they provided everything for us,” said Alex from the Chelsea house his mother and father called home. “They protected us, and they would take us to the theatre or we would be reading books. They always said that university and education is the best thing to lift yourself. We are going to miss him so much.”

The family immigrated to Canada in 2005, moving around from Victoria to Ottawa, before Emilian and Elena landed in Chelsea, where they have been since 2016. Alex, who resides in California, said he has been moved by the generous community response to the tragedy, as neighbours have been dropping off food and flowers for the grieving family. Alex said he’s been hearing anecdotes of how his father would check up on nearby neighbours and how he was adored by many in the small-knit area of Burnett.

“When I hear that, it’s nice because I always kind of strike up conversations with strangers or neighbours, and it’s nice to know that I got that from him,” added Alex.

Liliana, who currently lives in New Delhi, India, said it’s difficult for her to accept that her dad is gone and that her three kids, Daniel, Antonia and David, no longer have their “Bunu” to play chess, soccer or read with.

“He was the one who taught them how to read,” said Liliana about her now-grown kids. She’s heartbroken that she will no longer hear her three kids chatting politics, sports or physics in Romanian with grandpa during family visits. “He was more than a grandfather. He was almost like a father to them. I never realized how involved my dad was with them until now.”

Even in his senior years, Emilian was still conducting experiments and mentoring nuclear physics students online, while constantly reading books and newspapers and expanding upon his wealth of knowledge. Liliana said she was always amazed at how her dad “never lost his curiosity.”

Emilian was struck by a passing car on Hwy 105 around 5:15 p.m., while he was walking his dog. Police are still investigating what led to the tragic accident, but have not laid any criminal charges.

They have not released the driver’s name, but told the Low Down that it was an elderly motorist who hit Emilian near the intersection of Hwy 105 and Chemin Ditchfield. Shadow initially survived the accident, but later died.

The family wants answers, as they can’t understand how their father and husband was hit in broad daylight on a road that he had walked multiple times a day.

They want drivers to pay attention and to slow down on Hwy 105.

“Nobody can ever bring our father back,” Liliana cried. “There is no justice. The only justice is if nobody else gets killed.”

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