John Edward Eckenberger II was born October 13, 1942 in Frederick, OK, to John E. Eckenberger and Doris Ellen Jones. (He always joked that he was born on Friday the Thirteenth.) He was raised in Norman, OK until his father became a Methodist Minister, and he became a P.K. (preacher’s kid) who moved every few years. He graduated from high school at Canton, OK, attended college at OSU and Southwestern State where he graduated with a double major in Speech and Social Studies.
He met and married Cora Haynes in Weatherford, OK, and took a position with the State Welfare Department soon after. John also preached at various Methodist churches from in his teens until he got so busy as a Social Worker that it was plain that was God’s plan for his life. He received his Master of Social Work Degree from Oklahoma University in Norman.
During his Social Work career, John was a caseworker for the state of Oklahoma, twice a County Director of Welfare, Social Worker for the Methodist Boys Ranch at Gore, Director of the Chemical Dependency Unit at Bill Willis Community Mental Health in Tahlequah, Director of Prevention, Adjunct Instructor for the Social Work Department at Northeastern State University, and Clinical Director at Phoenix Gate in McAlester, OK.
He seldom held only one job, most of the time he had two or three concerns in which he served with his social work talents: Therapist, Teacher, Trainer, Mentor. He was recognized for his efforts when he was given the 1994 Muskogee NASW Rural Social Worker of the Year, the 1998 Oklahoma Social Worker of the Year, 2002 National Lifetime Achievement Award by the Field Practicum Supervisor Council on Social Work Education, and the 1986 McCoy Award Residential Child Care Worker of the Year. He also served on the advisory board of the School of Social Work at NSU in Tahlequah, and was designated “Defender of Social Welfare” in Kaluga Region in Russia.
John is preceded in death by his parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Edward Eckenberger; and by a granddaughter, Elizabeth Ann Applewhite, who died at birth. He is survived by his wife, Cora Eckenberger; both of their children, John William Eckenberger and Symphony Louise Micolites presently at Gore, OK; three surviving grandchildren, Gloria, Hannah, and David Micolities; and brother, John George Lewis Eckenberger of Norman, OK.
John died on the afternoon of October 23, 2013 at the age of 71 in a car-truck crash in Mayes County, when he was on the way to provide group therapy at Pryor. He was known and loved as “ECK” by many all over the state of Oklahoma. He was down-to-earth, what-you-see-is-what-you-get, and yet continually striving for the latest in ways to help people.
A Memorial Service celebrating John Eckenberger’s life will be held at the Gore United Methodist church on November 6, 2013 at 2:00 P.M. An opportunity will be given there to share anecdotes about John as we remember him. The family says that John would have preferred donations to the Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
Arrangements are under the direction of Millsap Funeral Service of Webbers Falls.