ShareThis Page
Obituary Stories

Mom spent much of 101 years teaching

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

Erma Eckels was a lifelong teacher for her 101 years, whether in the classroom at Norvelt Elementary School, at home teaching organ and piano, showing girls how to knit and crochet or teaching life lessons to her three children.

“She taught us to respect others and believe in ourselves. She instilled an energetic work ethic which you don't see today,” said her son Roger Eckels, the district judge in Norvelt.

“She was incredible. I never saw her really angry,” said her son Dr. Dennis Eckels.

Erma Eckels of Mt. Pleasant died Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, at Westmoreland Manor, Hempfield.

She was born March 17, 1916, in Youngwood, the daughter of the late William and Louise Boning Smith. Her parents moved to Mt. Pleasant Township when she was young, and she graduated from the former Hurst High School in Norvelt in 1934.

Her father was strong believer in education, and she enrolled in Seton Hill College in Greensburg, where she earned a degree in music, graduating in 1938.

Mrs. Eckels later earned her teaching degree at what was then California State Teachers College.

She taught kindergarten classes at Norvelt Elementary in Mt. Pleasant Township in the 1960s and '70s, before her retirement in the late 1970s.

In addition, she taught piano and organ at her home. While the students were practicing, she would often knit and crochet, Dennis Eckels said.

He recalled the time in the 1950s — before the Civil Rights movement had swept through America — when three black girls arrived at the back door of their house to take lessons. She reminded the girls that next time they came to the Eckels house, they were to come in through the front door like everyone else.

Her compassion for children was reflected in the stories she read to preschool children during Story Hour at the Mt. Pleasant Library.

Mrs. Eckels was a member of United Methodist Church of Mt. Pleasant and its missionary society. At church, she played piano for the Sunday school orchestra and sang in the choir.

The family had a large 100th birthday party for her in Mt. Pleasant, where about 80 people — all of her family and many friends — celebrated her life. Many of her kindergarten students and those whom she taught piano and organ, as well as knitting and crocheting, joined them, Roger Eckels said.

“She had a good time,” Dennis Eckels said.

Dennis Eckels attributed her longevity to “good genes” and the fact that “she took very good care of herself,” refraining from alcohol and tobacco.

“She is going to be missed by all of us. Her legacy will live on,” Roger Eckels said.

Mrs. Eckels was preceded in death by her husband of 64 years, Franklin F. Eckels.

She is survived by her children, Dr. Dennis Eckels of Bolivar; Sandra Atkins of Urbana, Ohio; and Roger Eckels of Mt. Pleasant; eight grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Galone-Caruso Funeral Home, 204 Eagle St., Mt. Pleasant, where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday. Interment will follow in Green Ridge Memorial Park, Connellsville.

Memorial contributions may be made to United Methodist Church of Mt. Pleasant, Mt. Pleasant Library or Norvelt Union Church.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me