Lending a helping hand

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By Camille McClanahan

Faith, family and friends make up the foundation that retired engineer Jack Eckler, the 2011 Grant County Volunteer of the Year, has built his life on.
As a young man, he stepped into parental responsibilities when his mother Amma Eckler died suddenly, taking responsibility for his younger brothers.
“Jack put his own life plans on hold in order to finish rearing Chuck and Richey,” said his sister Janis Fox. “Jack became the rock of our family.”
Eckler still lives on the same farm where he grew up. He and his wife, the late Nancy Eckler, who was the county extension agent for family and consumer sciences, had two sons, Daniel and John. Nancy died in 2004.
Eckler said that his wife’s first office was in the basement of the Williamstown Post Office.
From there, her office was moved to the old cistern in the basement of the old Hotel Donald. So when the Grant County Extension District Board approached him to oversee building a new extension office on Baton Rouge Road, he agreed. As project manager for the extension office, Eckler was offered a salary; however, when the building was completed, he refused the money.
“I thought I had adequate compensation that I didn’t need that,” he said. “I’m retired from the State of Kentucky. They asked me to, and I was glad to do it.”
As an engineer, his projects are usually no small undertaking. He worked nearly four years to oversee the relocation of Rosenwald School and get it set up again in Grant County Park in Crittenden.
Eckler planned the construction for the framework of the Live Christmas Tree, used by the Williamstown Baptist Church, where he is a deacon and former Sunday school teacher. One of his larger projects was nearly doubling the size of the church and adding an entire children’s ministry wing with several classrooms and a large nursery. They added seven more bathrooms, a huge fellowship hall, an elevator and a drive-through portico.
“All of these projects consumed much of Jack’s time, however, he has never been heard to have complained about any of his work in these efforts,” wrote, Michael Stanley, a member of Williamstown Baptist.
In addition, having had two knee replacements, he said he knows what it’s like to be homebound and he has engineered numerous handicapped ramps for individuals in the community.
Having done all these things, he is quick to say that he was just part of a group of volunteers and that it takes many people to bring projects to fruition.
“Of course I had a lot of help—a lot of volunteers over the years,” he said.
Eckler believes that using your skills to help others is nothing extraordinary, but simply what God expects.
“The Bible tells us in the parable of the talents, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s burden, or anything—it’s just what your supposed to do.”
(Eckler was nominated by his friend Bill Wilson and former employer, Jim Hale, both of Williamstown.)