The articles that I had been working on were postponed by the death of Vincent Eckenrode. My belated articles will be posted soon.
Vince was the last living member of my wife's immediate family, excluding me and her children. It was a tremendous privilege to be honored to speak at Vince's funeral. Though not perfect, as none of us are, he was a great guy. I tried to remember him without varnish, but with fondness, as I believe he would have wanted.
These are the thoughts on Vince that I shared with those present to celebrate his life and mourn his loss.
Eulogy for Vincent Eckenrode (1934 - 2012)
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
My name is Charles Hear, Yvette's husband. That makes Vince my only brother-in-law.
I always liked Vince. I liked his gruff exterior, his plain speaking. I liked sitting at the kitchen table with him, listening to the gears of the old electric wall clock grind out the time, discussing whatever was in the news. Even sitting in the family room with him and watching a game.
Born in 1934, among his contemporaries, Vince was a man's man. After his time in the Marine Corps, serving in the Korean War, Vince spent his working life doing the very dangerous job of boiler operator. When not working, he enjoyed golf, bowling, Stroh's Beer, and his beloved Steelers and Pirates.
Typical of men from his generation, Vince's father was very strict in disciplining his sons and set the example for what it was to be a man. As a result, Vince didn't talk for long on the telephone. It was easier for him to get frustrated and angry than show tenderness and love. It wasn't easy for him to admit mistakes. And if his sister, my wife, is any guide, I imagine that he could be very stubborn. Vince made mistakes, as do we all.
But Vince was also a good man who lived a relatively simple life.
Vince loved his mother. He showed his love by caring for her as she declined. He covered her expenses even to the point of putting his own financial security at risk. Vince always felt guilty about having to eventually put her into a nursing home.
In the winter, Vince would always clear the snow from the neighborhood sidewalks and the driveways of the elderly. I remember after he had a stroke, and couldn't keep his balance anymore, he worried about what would happen to the old people in the neighborhood if he didn't clear their walks and driveways. (In his '70s, he wasn't old yet!)
Vince suffered deep regret for the hurts he caused to those closest to him but he didn't know what to do about it. From the time I spent with him, I knew without a doubt, that he loved his stepson Gregg as though he were his own flesh and blood son and he treasured his daughters Laura and Maureen above all others. The picture of his daughters always hung above his chair in the family room. He never tired of talking about Laura and Maureen with me and was proud of the lives that they have lived.
As is the way with all flesh, it became time for Vince to leave us; as in the fullness of time we shall all leave our loved ones. But as Christians, and especially those of us who are Catholic, we are to be a hopeful people. The Apostle Paul proclaimed the Gospel as "The Good News."
We know that Christ, part of the tri-un God, came to Earth, suffered unimaginably, was insulted and humiliated, died on a cross, and even descended into Hell, not for the nearly perfect, but for the sinners. God knows the clay from which we are made. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, the gifts we received and those withheld, far better than we know ourselves.
Christ paid this debt to God the Father on our behalf so that the workers hired in the eleventh hour can share in the rewards of those who labored for the Lord from the beginning. We should remember that the most potent of Jesus' disciples had been the most grievous of sinners. The Apostle Paul killed the first Christian to be martyred. St. Francis of Assisi was a profligate sinner in his early life; as were so many of other great saints.
When Vince's heart is laid bare before our divine judge, I have no doubt that he will be found worthy to share in the Lord's kingdom.
To everything there is a season.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Although we mourn at parting ways with Vince today, we should be joyful at the prospect of joining him again when our time has come.
I will certainly miss you my buddy Vince. But I look forward to the day that we meet again!