BOB ECKERT MMI 1934-2011
Bob and I first met on the USS Hyman (DD732) late in 1954. He had gone aboard some
months before, and I had just been transferred to the Hyman from the USS Arcadia (AD 23), just three months out of boot camp. I immediately liked Bob’s cool, (bordering on clever) “devil may care” attitude and outlook on life. We both worked in the Forward Engine Room on the Hyman our entire Navy career, and often went on liberty together to see the sites of Europe. I particularly enjoyed our tours of the ruins in Athens, Greece and Rome, Italy.
Bob was “smarter than the average bear,” and he could have easily been a
commissioned Naval officer if he would have gone to the NROTC, but I think he was happy just running the equipment necessary for the operation of the destroyer’s main engines. I
often went to him for advice, usually on engine room problems or concerns, and if my
anfcllysis of a problem was not correct, he would answer with a simple “wrong, Junior,” and then he would explain the correct procedure. On occasion, he would have to say, “wrong again Junior,” which was very frustrating to me, but I always knew he was right.
Bob enjoyed making fun of the officers and petty officers who were senior to us. One of
the pranks he enjoyed doing was to wear shirts that should have been discarded long ago,
just to get a reaction out of “the boss” in the Forward engine room, a gung-ho First Class
Petty Officer named “Wally” Simpson. One day he came down to the engine room in a shirt that had the pockets ripped and hanging on for dear life, areas that had been bleached white from a mishap in the laundry, and other rips and tears. Wally immediately told Bob to go sew his shirt up before coming back into the engine room. An hour later, Bob came down with a shirt that would have made Frankenstein proud. He had sewn patches with different colors of thread, and his arm was in a “sling” created by running thread back forth between his sleeve and his newly created pocket. We won’t discuss here what Wally said at that point.
Suffice it to say, he was not pleased.
On another occasion, Wally needed us to work on Easter Sunday. Bob believed it wasn’t
right that we should have to work on Easter, so he was late getting to the engine room. As
soon as he came down, he promptly grabbed my arm, led me over to Wally, and said in a
loud voice “Junior, meet God.” Again, we won’t discuss Wally’s reaction here today.
Once we made a still out of a huge globe coffee pot. We were going to try to make Vodka,
by allowing some potatoes to ferment for a month, and then distill them in the pot. First Bob had to remove the thermostat so heat transfer would not be limited, and then the necessary copper tubing and cooling condenser had to be fabricated for the still. After we were done, we got our potato “stash” which had been deftly hidden in the bilges for over a month. When we opened the stash, the stench was overwhelming, but we concluded that the smell would go away once we started distilling the putrid mash. It didn’t. It got worse. The entire engine room smelled like a garbage dump when Wally came down to the engine room. He made us dump the mash and still into the ocean and said if we ever tried that again, he would put us on report. The still ultimately got us in trouble with the boss, but it sure was fun making the still and trying to make it work.
Well, this is beginning to get too long, so I better finish my memories of Bob with a final
About six years or seven years ago, I tried to find Bob on the Internet with the search
engines that were available then. Every couple of weeks I would try the search engines with no luck, until one day I found an “Eckert” in Ohio, and so I sent him an email, asking him if he was the Bob Eckert that I served four years in the Navy with. The Eckert turned out to be Bob’s son Steve, who informed Bob that I was looking for him on the Internet. Bob responded by email, and we corresponded through email ever since. My wife Shirley and I were fortunate to be able to attend Bob and Jo’s 50th wedding anniversary last August. I was sure glad we did. I will really miss Bob, and our years of emailing each other.
He made my four years in the Navy interesting and educational, and I feel proud and
honored to have been included as one of his many friends. “Junior” Crawford