ARON EISENBERG, the actor who played Quark’s Ferengi nephew and Rom’s son Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, passed away suddenly on Saturday having been taken to the hospital in critical condition. He was only 50 years old…survived by his two sons, Nicholas Lawrence Eisenberg and Christopher Eisenberg, and his recently-married wife Malíssa Longo (the hyperlink is to her announcement of Aron’s passing).
At times like these, people tend to talk about how the recently deceased touched their life or recall a personal encounter with them or simply say what a great person they were.
Although Aron didn’t touch my life in any way other than portraying a wonderful character for seven seasons of my favorite Star Trek series, that character was still an inspiration to me and many others. At first, I never really cared much for Nog. He seemed troublesome and headed nowhere, bringing his friend Jake Sisko down and potentially screwing up what was obviously a brilliant Starfleet career awaiting the son of the station’s Commander.
But then, slowly but ever-so-surely, Nog began to turn his life around. While Jake became less certain about his future following in his father’s footsteps, Nog became determined NOT to follow in his father’s footsteps and instead worked hard and earned his way into Starfleet Academy. The young Ferengi officer who emerged bore no more resemblance to how Nog started out than a tribble does to a targ. And yet, he was always Nog.
Now, I realize that Nog’s character arc was mostly due to the words written for him by the producers and writers, but Aron brought those words to life and made them (and Nog) real and believable to Trekkers and fans around the world. Who knows how many people, feeling aimless and trapped in their own lives, were inspired by Nog’s journey from bar-worker to Starfleet cadet to the first Ferengi Starfleet officer. In that way, I’m certain Aron touched many fans’ lives through his portrayal of Nog.
But fans also touched Aron’s life. In fact, we helped save it…
When Aron was a teenager, his kidneys failed, and he required a transplant. Although the operation was successful, Aron’s growth was stunted at a height of only five feet. But this didn’t stop him from beginning a successful Hollywood acting career at age 19 and landing the recurring role of Nog on DS9 barely five years later.
In 2015, Aron’s kidney began to fail again. He desperately needed a transplant. He’d found a willing donor, but there was still a problem. It would take both Aron and his donor about three months to fully recuperate, during which time neither of them could work. Aron’s partner at the time (now wife Malíssa), would need to be his primary caregiver and would not be able to work herself while also taking care of Aron. Unfortunately, these are the sorts of expenses that insurance doesn’t typically cover (lost wages), leaving all three of them in a bind.
But fans came through. In a month-long sprint, Aron and Malissa were able to raise over $10,000 from hundreds of loving supporters (including $30 from yours truly) via a GoFundMe campaign. The $10,000 would help Aron and his donor meet expenses for those three months. The rest would go to charity.
The following year, at the 50th anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, Aron appeared on stage in his “Nog” make-up (along with fellow DS9 semi-regular Max Grodénchik in his “Rom” make-up). When it came time for audience questions, I stood in line to comment: “Aron, I just want to say that we’re all so happy the surgery went well, and you look fantastic. How are you and your donor doing?” My friend in the audience, David, hearing that I’d just asked a question, got out his camera phone to film the rest. What followed was a very sincere, emotional, and beautiful moment that became one of my highlights of the con…
For me, that is how I will remember Aron. Even though I didn’t know him personally, I felt so close to him right there and then.
Nearly everyone who did know Aron personally who is writing tributes to him is saying how wonderful, warm, funny, humble, compassionate, and full of life he was. And I have no doubt that is true. I saw just a small piece of that watching him on stage.
And as I end this blog eulogy, I think about how Aron’s life is, in its own way, as inspirational as Nog’s. Nog was dealt a weak hand being born the son of a poor Ferengi bar worker on a military occupation space station. He had little going for him. Aron almost died from kidney failure twice. But even with his growth stunted, he went on to have an impressive acting career, find love, friends, have children, and earn the love of fans worldwide who cheered and supported him when he needed them most. Aron never gave up or lost hope (at least, not that we fans could see), and he pressed on, living life to the fullest extent he could and never losing his connection to the fans who loved him and whom he loved in return.
Aron, I never knew you, but I will miss you. Just knowing this world had you in it makes me happy. And knowing you have passed on makes me feel this world has just lost something special and irreplaceable. But here’s hoping that there are and will continue to be more Aron Eisenbergs out there who are kind and caring and never stop striving to live the best life they can, full of joy, hope, humor, and compassion. May we all strive to find our “inner Nog” and our “inner Aron.”
Thank you for sharing these last 50 years with the rest of us.
Shortly after this blog was posted, a GoFundMe campaign was set up by a family friend to raise $10,000 to cover the costs of Aron’s funeral. In the last 9 hours, more than $7,000 of that was donated from 236 loving fans and friends. If you’d like to contribute something, click the link below…