Remembering Eli Waller, 4, Felled By Enterovirus D68

On Sunday, November 16th, the Peacock Inn in Princeton will celebrate the brief life of one of the youngest members of its extended family: four-year-old Eli Waller, who in September went to bed seemingly healthy and died in his sleep from enterovirus D68.

Main dining room of the Peacock Inn in Princeton. Photo: Laura Moss, 2010

Four years ago, Eli’s mother, Suzie Waller, became a server at the Inn shortly after giving birth to triplets–Eli, Ava and Sydney. Suzie’s sister, Cyndi Perez, Peacock Inn’s pastry chef, is married to Emanuel Perez, the inn’s executive chef.

On September 24th, Eli’s parents, Suzie and Andy Waller, who live in Hamilton Township, kept Eli home from preschool with a mild case of pink eye. He went to sleep that night apparently healthy, but succumbed during the night the night to what tests later determined was enterovirus D68, a potent respiratory virus most active in summer and fall in this part of the country.

In a lengthy statement later issued to the Trenton Times, Andy Waller thanked the community for their support and described Eli as "a beautiful mix of eagerness and hesitancy, need and striving, caution and surprise, all of which were grounded in a pure, unconditional love.

"The youngest of a set of triplets," Andy continued, "born much smaller and lighter than his sisters, Eli nevertheless persevered through all the difficulties that came his way. Eli was not the type to give up, and even though things never really came easily to him, he would just plug away, day after day, practicing sounds, or movements, or skills, until he would eventually get them. He did this entirely in an effort to make his Mom and Dad proud, and we can unequivocally say that we were, and will continue to be, so very proud of our little Eli."

The benefit on Sunday, November 16th, will take place at the Peacock Inn from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm.There will be an open-house of food and wine and an auction of donated items. A minimum donation of $100 is requested. All proceeds will go to the newly created Waller Educational Fund, LLC.

“Eli’s mother, Suzie, has been part of our family since 2010, when we opened the restaurant," says Scott Suffman, Peacock Inn’s marketing director. "We wanted to figure out a way to give back when they are going through such a tough time. All the food and drinks are being donated, and even our employees’ time is being donated, because they really want to help.”

Enterovirus D68 was first identified in California in 1962. During the summer and fall of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed 1,116 cases of EV-D68 in 47 states as of November 6. The CDC’s state-by-state breakdown of D68 cases as of November 6 reported New Jersey outbreaks as "decreased."

Young people, especially those with prior asthmatic conditions, are particularly susceptible to the illness.

In a message on the inn’s website, Andy Waller thanks Barry and Elaine Sussman, owners of the boutique hotel and restaurant, for all that they have done for their family.

He wrote to the Peacock Inn community, “Your contributions equate to time with our daughters and security for their futures, both of which feel in such short measure lately. Your being a part of this event means the world to Suzie and me; it is a gesture for which we could never adequately thank you.

"Nevertheless, please know that my family and I truly appreciate you playing a part in helping our family.”

The Peacock Inn

20 Bayard Lane

SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at

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