OBITUARY: Father William F. Eckert
LENOX – Father William F. Eckert, 85 died peacefully on Friday, Jan. 18, at Providence Care in Lenox.
Father Eckert was born in Jersey City, N.J., on March 12, 1927. He was the son of the late William Eckert and Mary (McDermott) Eckert. He graduated Wood-Ridge High School in Wood-Ridge, N.J. Following graduation, he entered the US Navy to serve his country during World War II. After his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1946, Father Eckert entered Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. He graduated in 1950, and started a career at Traveler's Insurance Company.
Realizing he had a religious vocation, he studied three years at the Maryknoll Seminaries and three years at Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Albany, N.Y. He was ordained a priest into the Diocese of Camden, N.J., on May 16, 1964.
The following year, Father Eckert was granted permission to labor in the Brazilian Missions. He was pastor of Cure d' Ares Parish in the capitol city of Brasilia. One of his first tasks was building a church for his parishioners. While building the church and speaking with the laborers, he was told that there was no school for their children. After the church was complete, Father Eckert proceeded to build a school.
After serving eight years in Brazil, he returned to the United States and was assigned to the Diocese of Camden. He was chaplain at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point, N.J., as well as several other New Jersey parishes over the years. He also was national chaplain for the Christian Family Movement.
Father Eckert was an avid reader and author. For many years he wrote a weekly newspaper column for the Catholic Star Herald. In 1976 he wrote "The Passion of Jesus Christ: A Meditation" which was a version of the Passion play told through the eyes of Judas. This play was performed for several years during Lent at St. Isadore's Church in Vineland, N.J.
He also wrote books on meditation and in 1997 founded the Joseph House, a center for prayer and Christian meditation. Originally located in Ocean City, N.J., the Joseph House was moved to Vineland in 2004.
Father Eckert retired from the Diocese of Camden in July 1994. He moved to Massachusetts to be near his family where he served at St Mark Church in Pittsfield. He was fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish and would often say Mass for the Brazilian parishioners in Pittsfield.
He is survived by a sister, Patricia E. Kerr of Pittsfield and a brother, Barry Eckert and his wife, Jeanne, of Guilderland, N.Y. He is also survived by 3 nieces. Irene Coviello and her husband John, Patricia A. O'Brien and Diane Mora. He is survived by six nephews: Joseph Gagen and his wife, Vera, Leonard Light and his wife, Diane, Christopher Light and his wife, Gail, William Light and his wife, Donna, David Gagen and James Kerr and his wife, Tammie; as well as many great and great-great nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by three sisters: Irene Arata, Mildred Gagen and Rosemary Light. He was also predeceased by a nephew, William Gagen.
A Liturgy of Christian Burial was held on Friday, Jan. 25 St. Mark Church, Pittsfield, followed by burial in the family plot at St. Joseph Cemetery in Pittsfield.
Memorial donations may be made to the charity of one's choice in care of the Dery Funeral Home, 54 Bradford St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.