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He was a husband who always made time to slow dance with his wife in the kitchen. He was a father who hosted his own game shows in the living room and joyfully rode waves no matter how frigid the ocean. He was a Papaw who built massive Lego castles, tossed his grandkids in the pool for hours, and turned Easter egg hunts into Olympic-caliber events. He was a middle school physical education and health teacher who showed up before the sun (often with donuts, because, you know, balance), relished Sports Day, and quietly assured that students with struggling families were spoiled at Christmas. And he was a Manchester High basketball state champion turned coach who taught us that leaders uplift, that there are no excuses, and that it’s all so much bigger than a game.
Bobby Eckert, 64, recorded his final victory on April 23 when he won the game of life and, surrounded by family, went to be with Jesus.
He was honored with many awards, including Manchester Alumni Outstanding Faculty, Manchester High Athletic Hall of Fame, and PAC-7 Coach of the Year.
Bobby was a proud Manchester boy who fell in love with the friendly new girl who moved to town in junior high. Before shooting a free throw during the 1974 state championship game, he curled his hand into a fist and flashed a 1, 4, 3, his lifelong “I love you” to her. Soon, he asked Kim Ellis to marry him. She did. Forty-two years later, they never stopped dating.
The son of Joanne and Walter Eckert, Bobby earned his teaching degree after high school. But instead of taking the teaching position he wanted, he insisted on working the midnight shift at the Acme warehouse. That way, Kim could pursue her career and they could still raise the girls themselves -- her at night, and him during the day. He was the only dad the girls knew who could make a straight part for pigtails. And they enjoyed being ever-present on the sidelines of Dad’s basketball practices. He didn’t start teaching at Manchester Middle School until his oldest left for college. For the next 22 years, he called teaching the greatest job in the world.
When his daughters were old enough to play softball, Bobby didn’t just coach them: He started Manchester’s first girls travel team and took them around the country to compete. Work and heart, he knew, could beat fancy uniforms and matching bat bags eight days a week. And when his daughters entered high school, Bobby left the boys basketball program to take over the struggling girls program, and he turned them into a perennial powerhouse.
Bobby savored a good round of golf. Swensons burgers. ESPN. Chocolate milkshakes. Being early. The Beatles. Fried chicken after church on Sundays. A Cleveland Browns win. Playing cards. An immaculately clean car. A meticulously kept lawn. Movie nights with Kim. Rating everything from 1 to 10. Betting a buck. Outback steak. Laughing. Hosting neighborhood parties. The Tribe. Treating dinner. Tipping generously. Crisp track suits (with matching sneakers). Christmas (which was also his birthday, the genesis of his middle name Noel and undoubtedly the best day of the year). Rewarding his grandkids with $1 bills for anything he deemed an achievement (soccer goal, basketball assist, sharing with a sibling, helping Mimi cook, existing). Singing “Hit the Road, Jack,” upon getting into the car to go almost anywhere. Skee-ball on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach (three times a day, every day, all week, non-negotiable). Exploring the world with his family (who definitely never told his brain tumor doctor about tubing in Aruba last summer). Trips to Vegas with his sons-in-law (where teacher friends who handed him $20 to gamble on their behalf always miraculously won big). And Space Mountain and Fantasmic at Disney World (where his grandkids were treated to all plastic things that emit light and/or bubbles BECAUSE THIS IS LIVING, PEOPLE!).
He fought cancer for three years with tenacity and an unwavering faith in God’s plan, far outliving his prognosis and showing yet another lesson in grit and grace. He taught us so much. To be big. To compete fiercely but to always help your opponent up. To hustle harder and smarter and until the very last second runs off the clock. That if you’re ever stuck, don’t panic. That you don’t tell people what they can’t do, you tell them what they can. And that if God blesses you with anything, it’s because he trusts you to pay it forward.
Bobby Eckert paid all of it forward. He never meant to change the world. He was far too practical for that. But he did. One Manchester kid at a time.
We are so grateful to have called him ours: Wife/Soulmate/Milkshake Maker/Best Friend Kim. Daughters Kristy and Erika. Sons-in-law Mike Wagner and Brian Ruch. Siblings Anne Cole, Don and Diane Eckert, Connie Eckert, Mike and Karla Arnold, and late brother Skip Eckert. And eight beloved grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we invite you to make a donation to Manchester Basketball (subject line: The Bobby Eckert Fund), 6075 Manchester Rd., New Franklin, Ohio, 44319.
Respects may be paid at his final Earthly resting place: Manchester Cemetery, last driveway, 3/4 way down on the left.
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First to Kim and the girls along with their family I want to send my deepest sympathy. Coach was a Great Husband , Father, Grandfather, friend and Mentor. He will be deeply missed. I remember when I transfered my Junior year to Manchester and I had to go to summer ball and play with my new team. I was so Nervous but he calmed me down, introduced me to everyone and there it began my new Panther family. Not knowing where I would stand with the team and knowing where I came from I was also surprised he made me a Team Captain pushing me to become a better leader and player. Years later I remember running into him when I was out to dinner with my family. He gave me the biggest hug and how are you and what are you doing. As I went into I started my own business Coach said awesome ! And so it began he became one of my biggest supporters and Fans and always referred to me when possible. Session are where I was able to hear about the family and what was going on. I felt like I never left the panther family. He was so proud of you all. Coach came to my business and I was so excited to tell him Josh and I were expecting and he was soo happy for me and all during my pregnancy he checked in on me even when he wasn't feeling good. I remember getting an email from Kim saying please tell me you had that baby I want to tell Bobby good news and I sent them Zoe's baby announcement so they could see her and they were overjoyed and still checking in on me. He has definitely left a legacy and tons of memories on a lot of us. Coach you will be missed!!!!
Mary Jo Fox Peck Apr 29 2020 12:00 AM
Last summer Erika invited us to her parents house to go swimming with her and her children. My kids were so excited and they thought it was awesome how much ice cream their Grandpa had. This was the first time we met him and he was so nice. He was so happy to make all the kids ice cream sundaes and they thought it was the best thing ever! We will always remember him, how kind he was and how he welcomed us into his home.
Christine Muniak Apr 27 2020 12:00 AM
Its really sad to hear about Mr. Eckert. What a awesome good hearted man.Condolences to his family
Ashley Richter Apr 26 2020 12:00 AM
Coach Eckert was one of the kindest and most genuine people I've known. That was my impression of him as a young kid and it never changed. My company has the privilege of maintaining Manchester cemetery and making it look it's best for folks spending time with loved ones. It's a weekly reminder of how fragile life can be. Knowing Bobby is laid to rest there will only make us work harder, pay more attention to detail, be even more respectful, and try to enjoy every moment we have. Love and respect.
Jeremiah Dietrich Apr 26 2020 12:00 AM
So sorry for the loss. He was a fixture in the Manchester schools as long as I can remember. I remember Bobby briefly watching our first grade class while his mother had to step out for something. I think he even stood on his head or did a handstand to keep us entertained. That was probably the same year as the basketball championship.
Tom Hercules Apr 26 2020 12:00 AM
That was the best obituary that I have ever heard. He sounded absolutely amazing. God Bless all of you.
Danielle Apr 26 2020 12:00 AM
I have never met Bobby but I felt so moved by his story.How fortunate the Eckert family was to have such a treasure.God bless.
Mark LaRose Apr 26 2020 12:00 AM
Kim, what a team you two were! How wonderful for you to have such a soul mate husband and he a soul mate wife. I am sure you will find some comfort in all the wonderful things people remember about Bobby. He is not gone from you, but forever in your heart. My sympathy to you, the girls and all of the family
Barb Baric Lent Apr 26 2020 12:00 AM
Kim-I have so many wonderful memories with bob and your family. My best moments as a child were on that softball field with Bob. I remember him showing up to my house with flowers after I broke my finger at practice before nationals. He gave me the biggest hug and just made everything better. I never played softball in high school the way I did for him when I was younger. Lets just say I wasnt very good at basketball in high school. But, boy oh boy, I tried my hardest and hustled because I was playing on that court with Bob. I remember one time specifically it was the last minutes of the game and the other team had the ball. He pulled me to the side and said Rikki you need to foul her so we can get the ball. Well he never said how hard to foul her-lol. And when Bob told me to do something, I did it! Well, I fouled that girl-damn near pushed her down on the court and I received a technical!!!! I remember Bob looking at me like WTF?? And me looking back-you told me to foul her? Lol-this story makes me laugh til this day. Like Ive said before, he just brought out the best in all who knew him. Thank you Eckerts for giving me some of the absolute best memories of my childhood . I live off of Yager Road now. I often reminisce about the many sleepovers and dips I had in your pool. I picture him in heaven on a softball field in a red coachs jersey building a team of angels right now
Rikki Anderson Apr 26 2020 12:00 AM
To the family. Although my contact with Bobby was a short time through coaching against him, it was a positive time. We were able to share things, not just coaching, but life topics, too. My sympathy to you all.
Norwayne High School, retired
Jim Glessner Apr 26 2020 12:00 AM