John Ernst "Jack" Eichler

John Ernst Jack Eichler
World Trade Center

Magician and Joker

John Ernst Eichler believed in bringing the world some comic relief — not in a clownish way, but with his own brand of dry wit. "He had one of the greatest senses of humor on the face of the earth," said his friend Edmund Redsecker. "He could brighten your day."

Mr. Eichler, 69, of Cedar Grove, N.J., retired several years ago as director of administration for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. He was at a breakfast at Windows on the World on Sept. 11.

He was a man of multiple avocations. He joined the New York Academy of Sciences, attending lectures with rapt attention. ("But you don't understand what they're saying," his friend Gene Bloch would say. "Yes, but I look like I understand it, don't I?" Mr. Eichler would reply.) He was also a member of the Society of American Magicians, performing sleight-of-hand for friends, said Rod Eichler, his son.

And he was known for his practical jokes. Once, he walked into a men's clothing store owned by a friend in Montclair, N.J. He took out a handful of black plastic ants and scattered them over the sweater table. "He started making a commotion," his son recalled, "saying, 'I can't believe it, there's an insect problem here, they're all over the sweaters.'"

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 28, 2001.

Jack Eichler, 69, a calm 'voice of reason'

After retiring as executive director of the white shoe Wall Street law firm of Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft in 1994, Jack Eichler sought excuses to make the trip back to Manhattan from his Cedar Grove home.

There were lectures at the Academy of Sciences, meetings with other veterans who also collected antique guns and armor and many visits with friends.

On Sept. 11, Mr. Eichler -- whose youthful energy and always-on-the-go nature belied his 69 years -- was to meet his investment counselor, David Brady, for an 8:45 breakfast at Windows on the World. Afterwards he planned a full day in the city.

Neither he nor Brady, a Merrill Lynch first vice president and father of four from Summit, would make it home again. Both died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

"Jack was everything wonderful about being alive," said Peggy Eichler, his wife.

John "Jack" Ernst Eichler was born and raised in Bloomfield. After high school, in 1951, he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and was stationed in Greenland.

He met Peggy Metters after his discharge in 1954 and the couple married in 1956.

Two years later, he graduated from Upsala College and began working at PSE&G. He came to head the company's Equal Employment Opportunity Department.

At night, he earned a graduate business degree from New York University.

In 1977, he left PSE&G to manage the business side of Cadwalader.

At the law firm and in life, Mr. Eichler was known as someone who could ease tensions.

He had a knack for connecting with everyone, from the homeless man begging on Wall Street to the top executive, his son said.

"He had a complete voice of reason," said Rod Eichler. "I never recall him yelling . . . he never got angry, never got out of kilter."

Once Mr. Eichler retired in 1994, he could be found on the tennis court up to five times a week, fitting matches in between golf, squash and working out.

He looked about 10 years younger than his age and was in top physical condition, said his good friend Edmund Redsecker, 63, of Cedar Grove.

"He was a very fun-loving guy," said Redsecker. "He could bring a smile to anybody's face."

For some, he used magic.

"He always had a trick," said Rod Eichler, adding that his father was a member of the Society of American Magicians. He knew how to press pencils through glass and he was known to turn a single foam bunny into five.

Once, when his son was small and asked why he didn't use real bunnies, he told him, "I tried it once and I lost my rabbit."

Rod Eichler still doesn't know if his dad was pulling his leg.

Mr. Eichler is also survived by a grandson, 16-month-old Jack Roderick Eichler; and two sisters, Joan Aiello of Montclair and Lois Churchill, of Bloomfield.

Profile by Kimberly Brown published in THE STAR-LEDGER.

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