While the GW community was in the throws of move-in day Saturday, an elderly man died in his car idling in traffic less than a block from campus.
Nadim Makdisi, 86, died of natural causes on the corner of 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue at about 11:40 a.m., according to a police report. The medical examiners office said Wednesday afternoon that he suffered from arterial sclerotic cardiovascular disease, a hardening of the arteries. He was later taken to GW Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:26 p.m.
Dick Golden, an employee for University Events and host of GW’s weekly radio show, discovered the man, who lives in the Watergate complex. Golden said he was walking across the street when he noticed Makdisi idling at a red light with his head down and not holding the steering wheel. His car was in the way of the crosswalk.
“I said ‘Sir,’ and he didn’t look up at me,” Golden said. “His eyes were still looking down at his hands. And his head went up in the air, and I knew at this point that this man was dying in front of me.”
As the light turned green, cars started honking and Golden began directing traffic around Makdisi’s car, he said.
Makdisi then clutched the steering wheel and slumped over, according to the police report. Golden called 911 immediately after, and fire and medical services soon responded.
Makdisi, who spent much of his life in Lebanon, was an avid journalist, according to his son Aneese Makdisi. He added that his father was one of the first people to produce television in Lebanon, and that he spent several decades of his life working at a prominent Arabic business magazine.
“The day that he died, he was writing an editorial for that magazine,” Aneese Makdisi said. “So he never retired”
Tony Puglisi, owner of Puglisi’s Barber Shop on 21st Street, said Makdisi has been coming to the shop for more than 25 years.
“I still have it in my mind that the guy was coming to get a haircut (the day he died),” Puglisi said.
Makdisi’s barber, José Domingos, said that he last saw him four weeks ago.
“He was getting old, he was slowing down, but it was crazy how he died like that,” Domingos said. He added that he often spoke French with Makdisi while giving him haircuts.
Makdisi is survived by his three sons, as well as seven grandchildren.
“That’s what happened Saturday at the George Washington University,” Golden said.