Family set to honor Pearl Harbor veteran
The Pearl Harbor veteran spent most of his nights watching Rangers games and talking about the club. He purchased a suite for the Rangers-White Sox game a few months ago and made sure the family was committed to attending together. But he passed away last month just one day before Father’s Day and a week shy of his birthday.
Eckel was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer last August and was doing his best to beat it. But once he got pneumonia, his body wasn’t able to fight it off.
“He wanted the family to go, so we’re going,” said 63-year-old Charlie Eckel, one of Bill’s six children. “He just loved the Rangers. Sometimes he’d fall asleep before the game ended and the Rangers would win and I’d call him to tell him about it. He really wanted to be there for the game.”
Eckel had six children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren and most of them will be at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington wearing T-shirts with Eckel’s name on them.
“It would mean a lot to him to know we’re going and that we’ll be together,” Charlie Eckel said.
Bill Eckel served on the USS New Orleans and was on the ship when the first Japanese fighter dropped bombs at Pearl Harbor.
“He was on the bow of the ship and was going to breakfast,” Charlie Eckel said. “He heard an airplane and said, ‘What’s that crazy fool flying an airplane on a Sunday morning before 8? He saw it drop a torpedo on the USS Oklahoma.”
Eckel, who retired from the Navy as a Motor Machinist Mate First, also fought in the Battle of Midway and the Battle of Coral Sea. He worked as an electrician and an air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic after leaving the service and lived in Rusk, Texas, for 37 years.
All along, he watched and pulled for the Rangers.
“We’ll celebrate his life and his birthday while we’re there and just be together,” Charlie Eckel said. “That’s what he’d want.”
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