Dr. Joseph Frederick Eckman Sr., 70, of Kennett Square, left his earthly body behind on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, and moved on to eternal life with his Savior in Heaven, just five months after his diagnosis of melanoma.
He was the husband of Ellen Ann (Latta) Eckman, with whom he shared 45 years of marriage.
Joe was born in Coatesville, the youngest son of the late Elwood M. and Daisy Weber Eckman.
Joe attended Penn State University
from 1961 to 1964 and graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 1968.
Commissioned by the U.S. Navy
, Lt. Cmdr. Eckman served his country at Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines from 1968 to 1970 during the Vietnam War
. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve Dental Corps until 1979.
Joe and Ellen Ann returned from the Philippines in 1970 and opened his first dental office in their home in Kennett Square. In 1984, he moved his office to Willowdale, where he practiced dentistry until recently.
In 2006, he and his son, Dr. Joe Eckman Jr., opened a second office in Jennersville. His niece, two nephews, and their sons also followed him into the dental profession.
Dr. Joe and Ellen Ann have two children: a daughter, Kathy Ann (Eckman) Joseph; and a son, Joseph Eckman, Jr. Kathy Ann and her husband, Greg, recently moved to Kennett Square from North East, Md., with their three children, Karalyn, Nathan, and Katelyn. Joe Eckman Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Cochranville with their three children, Daisy, Tucker and Lucy. Joe's brother, Lester W. Eckman (Carol Sensenig: deceased 2005) and wife, Linda, live in North East, Md. His brother Walter M. Eckman and wife, JoAnne, live in Kennett Square. Joe has many nieces, nephews and cousins who have been an integral part of his life.
Joe was a dedicated friend and mentor to an ever-growing network of people who stretched far and wide. He was known for being honest and forthright about his moral, political, educational and religious beliefs. He was genuinely concerned for everyone who came into his life. Many people have called him their "best friend" or "role model." Dr. Joe was a "one-of-a-kind philanthropist and humanitarian" who spent countless hours giving of his time, talents and resources.
Joe loved sailing. For him it was a means of drawing closer to and spending quality time with family and good friends. From his childhood days on the North East River to more recent journeys to Florida on his catamaran, Twin Ship, he was always inviting others to join him on his adventures. Basketball was another hobby, and watching and playing sports enabled him to connect with and reach out to others. Joe also loved music. In addition to serenading his dental patients and encouraging young people to develop their musical talents, he sponsored musical events to enrich the community.
In 1990, Joe purchased Sandy Hill Camp and Retreat Center on the Chesapeake Bay in North East, Md. Thanks to his foundational vision and hard work, Sandy Hill has continued to grow under the management of his daughter and son-in-law since 1995. Today, it provides a fun and inspirational camp experience to more than 3,000 kids each summer and hosts retreats for many school, church, and community groups each fall and spring.
Dr. Joe was always giving back to his community. A true "family" dentist, he was always available to meet the needs of his dental patients. He made his office a welcoming place for Spanish-speaking patients decades ago, when the need first began to arise in the community. He was instrumental in bringing Young Life, a Christian outreach ministry for high school students, to Chester County in 1972 and served as a volunteer leader. He directed many young people into their career paths and closely followed their successes. In 1974, he and several other men began weekly prayer breakfast meetings around Chester County which continue today.
Over the years, Joe continued to share his time and resources with countless charitable organizations locally and globally. These include RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries), FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), CCGM (County Correctional Gospel Mission), Willowdale Chapel, The Garage in both Kennett and West Grove, Wellspring International, Pastor Willie Pinder in Haiti, Young Life, EPPC (Ethics and Public Policy Center), Faith in Action, Key Life Network, Heritage Foundation, Canine Partners for Life, The Seeing Eye, Tree Tops Rescue, Plumpton Park Zoo, Wounded Warriors, Chester County Pops, Neighborhood Hospice in West Chester, and many others. Joe and his family have established the Eckman Family Foundation to facilitate their continued support of these many wonderful ministries.
You are invited to greet Dr. Joe's family and friends at Willowdale Chapel between 5 and 8 p.m. on either Wednesday, Dec. 11, or Friday, Dec. 13.
The family is creating a book of memories, and would welcome your contribution of a written memory, photo, or sentiment either on paper or at www.griecocares.com.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Willowdale Chapel, 675 Unionville Road (Routes 926 and 82), Kennett Square.
Interment will follow in Union Hill Cemetery. Bus transportation to and from the cemetery will be provided.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Eckman Family Foundation, 55 Walls Drive, Third Floor, Fairfield, CT 06824 or directly to any of the charities mentioned above.
Arrangements are being handled by the Kuzo & Grieco Funeral Home Inc. of Kennett Square, 610-444-4116. To view Dr. Joe's online tribute and to share a memory with his family, please visit www.griecocares.com.