Friends and memories at North Village Café

Ryan Kinker, Senior Sports Reporter

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I don’t think there’s a single building on Central Washington University’s campus that has had as much of an effect on my life as North Village Café (“North”).

I lived in Alford-Montgomery Hall my freshman year, worked as a Resident Assistant in Wendell Hill Hall B for a year, then moved to Al-Monty again for a month as a Community Programmer and have been living in Student Village in the two years since. There’s never been a single day that  I have been a student at CWU that I have preferred going to the SURC for food over North.

The first time I saw friends and hallmates working on campus was in North. By the end of my third year here, I knew every single person who worked in North and getting food was a social experience as much as it was a dining experience. One day when I was ordering a sandwich, the girl working told me that I should read the Observer, because she had a story she was proud of in it. That was the first time I remember hearing of the Observer, and it was the first time I picked one up with the intention of reading it. That’s a memory I’ll never forget.

The first time I missed a college class (costing me half a letter grade, because the Music Department is ruthless) was because I spent the better part of three hours talking to a very upset friend who lived in my residence hall. She was having boy issues that only compounded the troubles of being a first-year music major (and boy, are there a lot of music major problems). That’s a memory I’ll never forget.

The first night I had a rough night on weekend duty (being up until 2 a.m.) in Wendell, I spent the next morning eating the special breakfast platter they serve every single Saturday. Eggs that are slightly too soggy, an overly crisp piece of toast that could be thrown at someone and cause a concussion and the hash browns that practically dripped with salt. And they tasted like the best thing ever made, every single Saturday that year. That’s a memory I’ll never forget.

The first time I had serious thoughts of ending my own life, I wound up getting food with a good friend at North Cafe. A friend that was the only real reason I ate most of the days last year. He ordered a calzone with only pepperoni inside, waiting patiently for his order to be called, as I ate the same sandwich I have gotten since I was a freshman: a pub roll with ham, turkey, pepper jack cheese, banana peppers, tomato, lettuce and caesar dressing.

It was one of the many days that I spent feeling like a waste of space as I quietly bit into the fluffy roll. I had no money, I was failing and not showing up to classes, I played video games 12 hours a day and I truly felt there was no purpose for my life. I was within the darkest place I have been to mentally.

We went to the C-Store in North after finishing our food, getting what we typically did. For me, it was a Zero candy bar and for my friend, it was a pizza-flavored Hot Pocket (my friend really likes pizza). As we went to the counter to check out, instead of a fresh faced college student, we were helped by the manager of North Cafe.

I had seen him at North Cafe many times over the years and he was there practically every time I went in. This was the first time we ever spoke to each other. As he grabbed the Zero bar, he asked why I was getting one. I told him that I love them because they’re not actually chocolate, but white fudge.

Zero bars are only sold at the cafe, not anywhere else in Ellensburg, including in the SURC. I learned he only ordered them because he liked them, regardless of how everyone else at CWU Dining Services felt about them. He was really cool and told me his name was Edwin. That’s a memory I’ll never forget.

Every time I went into North after that day, I saw him and he’d ask how I was doing and we would talk as he worked the register. We always had a good laugh together about something that was happening on campus, or if there was a long line. He was the only professional staff in Dining that I liked to see because he made my experiences in North Cafe better.

I saw him this past Wednesday as I got the same sandwich I always have gotten, banana peppers and all. We talked and he made a comment about me getting the same sandwich and I laughed and told him that I’m not a fan of change.

I didn’t know then that it would be the last time I would see Edwin Torres-Pagan. I found out Sunday that he passed away Thursday night at 64 years old, a day after I had seen him last.

I didn’t know how to feel about it. I never really knew him, I didn’t know about his family, about his hobbies or about any specific aspect of his life other than his workplace, yet I felt I had lost something.

Edwin was a part of North Village Café. He spent more time there than anyone and I spent more time in there than any other building on campus. He was a part of my life at CWU, someone who was always there, meaningful to me or not.

I know there are plenty of former workers, current workers and supervisors all across campus that feel the same way I do and will miss him.

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Friends and memories at North Village Café