Ed was born in Annapolis, Md. in 1935, to Edward H. Eckelmeyer Jr. (U.S. Navy, Ret) and Karin (Aspegren) Eckelmeyer. As a child of a naval officer, Ed lived in many places, including Maryland, California, Virginia and Florida. As a teenager, Ed attended and graduated from Maury High School in Norfolk, Va. He spent his time finishing high school at the extended family’s home, “Sunny Court,” while his father’s two-year tour of duty abroad took his parents and younger sister to Oslo, Norway.
A graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, he held roles with RCA Service Company, Marine Acoustical Services, Harris Graphics and General Dynamics Electric Boat. He also held a Master of Business Administration from the University of New Haven and took coursework in computer science from the University of Rhode Island.
Early in his career, his work with RCA took him to Asia where he served as an advisor to the Burmese and Korean Air Forces. He was one of the few remaining foreigners to leave Burma before it fell to military rule in 1962. At Harris, where he was responsible for designing equipment for the printing industry, he received a patent for inventing the process for changing the roll of paper without stopping the presses. At Electric Boat, he was the electrical engineer for the nuclear research submarine NR-1, which performed underwater search and recovery, oceanographic research missions and installation and maintenance of underwater equipment. A notable mission he was involved in was in 1995, when Robert Ballard used the NR-1 to explore the wreck of the HMHS Britannic, the sister ship of the RMS Titanic.
Prior to receiving his bachelor of science degree, Ed graduated from the United States Coast Guard electronics school. That was followed by two and a half years on assignment with the USCG Cutter Chincoteague where they patrolled the North Atlantic Ocean collecting meteorological data and performing search and rescue. His responsibilities included maintenance of all electronics equipment including communications, RADAR, SONAR, LORAN and IC Systems.
After retiring from Electric Boat, Ed volunteered his time for nearly 10 years as the boatman for the University of Virginia women’s and men’s rowing teams (his daughter’s alma mater). He helped rig and maintain rowing shells, organized the boathouse and traveled with the teams to many regattas. He and Barbara spent the fall and spring rowing seasons in Charlottesville, Va. There they enjoyed the Blue Ridge Mountains, exploring the South and on occasion, visiting his childhood hometown of Norfolk, Va.
Ed was a man of many hobbies and an avid “do it yourselfer.” When he and Barbara bought their house in Noank in 1973, Ed and his father updated it room by room, adding insulation and drywall, painting or wallpapering and finishing the woodwork. Later on, when they put on a small addition and remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, Ed did much of the work himself. He was an accomplished woodworker, often spending evenings and weekends in his “shop” crafting away on his latest project. He built their first dining room table, the cradle for his infant daughter and later on, a beautiful wooden bunk bed set.
He was an outdoor enthusiast and enjoyed camping, hiking and travel. He and Barbara were members of the Appalachian Mountain Club, which is how they met. Each year they engaged in club activities, including annual trips to Mt. Washington and Cardigan Lodge. Even into his senior years, he kept it up as much as he could, including a recent camping trip to Oregon with Road Scholars and a trip through the Panama Canal with family. He loved the water and sailing, which was one of the many reasons he was drawn to Noank and called it his home for over 50 years. Ed’s love of boats started early, from “messing about in boats” with cousins during summers at Sunny Court in Norfolk, Va. to Boy Scouts and then the Sea Scouts in high school. As a young adult, he enjoyed SCUBA and was extensively involved in underwater exploration, photography and salvage. He and Barbara were members of the Ram Island Yacht Club where they kept their 19-foot sailboat “Yara” and later, their wooden power boat “Break of Day,” on which they spent weekends enjoying the beauty of the Mystic River and Long Island Sound. The Sea Scouts was also his first introduction to amateur radio (HAM), a passion that continued until his death. HAM radio allowed him to connect with other radio enthusiasts from around the world, all from the comforts of his “radio shack” in his attic. His HAM radio devotion was visible through the unusual looking antenna on top of his house or the one attached to the trailer hitch of his car and even in his vehicle license plates which proudly displayed his HAM call letters, first K4ZQK and later K1EE, which he applied for and got call letters using his initials and is now a silent key.
Ed was a big part of the local Noank/Groton/Mystic community. During the 1980s and 1990s, he served for three terms on the Groton Town Council where he became known for his dedication for resolving the litter and trash issue. He was active with the local Noank Baptist Church, serving as treasurer for many years. Ed was a personable man who had a knack for striking up conversations with anyone. He loved making things better, whether it be through his own tinkering and craftsmanship, the power of technology or even the simple power of the personal connection and doing things for others. He lived a remarkable life, and we miss him terribly.
He leaves behind his wife of 49 years, Barbara Eckelmeyer; a daughter from his first marriage, Karen Eckelmeyer of Oakdale; a daughter, Kirsten Eckelmeyer of Princeton, N.J. and her husband Craig Richardson; grandchildren, Auggie and Thea Richardson of Princeton, N.J.; a sister Karin Tabor of Portola Valley, Calif. and her husband Rowland; as well as an extensive group of cousins, nieces and nephews.
The family hopes to hold a Celebration of Life service for him this summer at the Noank Baptist Church gardens, COVID-19 conditions permitting. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the Noank Baptist Church.
Published in The Day on Jan. 17, 2021.