I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of a friend this past weekend.
Dr. Richard "Dick" Eckert, of Evans, died on Wednesday, May 12 at a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. He was 69.
I learned of Dr. Eckert's death in an obituary that appeared in our sister newspaper, The Augusta Chronicle , a few days later.
I couldn't believe it. I kept saying it out loud a couple of times.
Dr. Eckert had been a friend of mine for many, many years. He also treated me for a back injury several years ago.
Dr. Eckert, a highly-decorated Army hero during the Vietnam era, always seemed to have time for everybody -- his patients, friends and family. Nobody ever felt left out when Dr. Eckert was around.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Eckert years ago when he served as director of emergency services at University Hospital in Augusta. Being a reporter and covering crime stories, our paths crossed often.
Little did the two of us know at the time, but later on we would become friends.
Like many of my friendships, it began at a baseball field. Specifically, it was Evans High School, home of the Knights and at the time where Terry Holder served as head coach and Danny Black, his assistant coach.
One of the Dr. Eckert's sons, Mike, now a doctor like his father, was one of the star pitchers at Evans High School. Again, being a reporter, I covered in many of the sports at several high schools in Columbia County for many years.
Dr. Eckert always made it a point when he saw me covering one of his son's games to come over and talk a little bit. The conversations dealt mostly about Evans High baseball.
His son's team was ranked nationally by USA Today and would go on to win three straight state baseball championships. That was an incredible time in my life getting the opportunity to cover those teams.
Dr. Eckert was like the rest of us -- he enjoyed Evans High baseball.
He got it honest.
In his younger years, he was prep star athlete, who later became quarterback for the collegiate Army football team.
No doubt, his son, Mike, inherited his father's athletic genes, because he was a fine athlete, too.
Dr. Eckert was a remarkable man, a gentleman, a loving and devoted husband and father. He also was a man of faith, a strong believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
He also was one heck of a doctor. He took serious the oath that he took when he became a doctor. He wasn't one to take lightly anything he ever did. Perhaps, that's the reason Dick was as successful in life as he was.
Dr. Eckert epitomized the meaning of the word, doctor.
Indeed, he was a most special man to thousands of people who he helped over the course of his life. I shall miss him and thank of him, often.
For those of us who knew this fine, caring man, our lives certainly were more enriched.