SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A staple in the Savannah community, Richard Eckburg, has passed away.
Richard Eckburg died Wednesday, but his contributions to our community will live on for decades.
"Dick" Eckburg wasn't originally from Savannah, but he sure made it his home when he came here in 1986.
When he retired from UPS, he had no plans to slow down. He and his wife Judy have supported many local organizations over the years.
Not just financially, but with their time and dedication.
Organizations such as the Lucas Theatre, the 200 Club, Senior Citizens Incorporated, the U.S. Army Rangers, and many many more.
Mr. Eckburg reflected on his life in an interview from last year.
“There’s a biblical verse that those that have been given much, much is expected. And I figured Judy and I have the means to help others and we are going to do that. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has something you can learn something from. I have lived a great life and I appreciate everything. I feel so blessed,” Eckburg said.
He was a successful businessman by all rights, but what we’ll remember most about him, is his huge heart and deep love and commitment to this community.
Dick Eckburg’s roots were in Amboy, Illinois. He grew up in a Depression era working class family. One of six children.
But to hear how he told it.
"We were poor but everybody else was poor. We just had a great, wonderful background and childhood."
His dad ran a 5 and dime called Eckie’s. His mom took in laundry and played organ at the local church.
The money was tight and times were tough. His parents instilled the values of hard work and generosity, as he explained last year.
“As poor as we were my mother and dad never refused to help anybody else and we learned to share as young and to help out people. If you couldn’t give them something, do something for them - go cut their grass or shovel their sidewalks or do something. It was a great background.”
He served in the Korean War, a time he didn’t talk much about.
But over the years, he shared his affection and patriotism - helping families of the soldiers of the Nightstalkers and Rangers.
In 1954, back from the war, he landed a job that would define his career, as he described in this 2006 interview.
"I got a job working for international harvester in a factory, and the best thing that ever happened to me is they went on strike. Two weeks later I got a job driving a truck for UPS. 1954. $1.75 an hour."
With UPS, he worked his way up the corporate ladder, all the way to the Vice President’s chair.
In 1986 he and his wife Judy relocated to Savannah. And since that time, the community has benefited greatly.
"I didn't just want to just retire and play golf and hang out at the Landings, so I became very much involved in organizations in Savannah.
Very much so. His philanthropic contributions can be felt all over town with:
- The Lucas Theater
- Savannah Christian Preparatory School
- The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire
- Savannah Technical College
“His monetary generosity his guidance to me has been invaluable. He’s probably one of the more quite leaders in our community but he’s behind the scenes on most everything important to us,” said Dr. Kathy Love, President of Savannah Technical College.
For that reason, the Savannah Business Hall of Fame named him the 2006 Laureate.
A man known for his fierce determination and perseverance. And forever remembered for steadfast determination to give back and help others.
Richard Eckburg was 88 years old.
Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) released a statement Wednesday about the passing of Eckburg.
“The death of Dick Eckburg is a great loss for our community. Dick dedicated his life to philanthropy and helping others. Schools, colleges, churches, coastal protection groups and organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Coastal Empire all benefited from the heartfelt work of Mr. Eckburg. Savannah is a better place because of him. Dick’s family, friends and all who knew him are in our thoughts and prayers. He will be deeply missed.”
“He was just a giant of a man. You know, so many things in Savannah were benefited from him,” said Dale Critz Jr., Telfair Museum Board Chair.
Dick Eckburg served alongside Dale Critz Jr. on the Telfair Museum's board of trustees.
Although Eckburg wasn’t born in Savannah, Critz says he might as well have been, giving back to numerous local organizations, as well as the military.
"He would buy memberships every year to the Telfair and give them to military families."
It was that selflessness that earned Eckburg the 2019 “Life Well Lived” award by Senior Citizens, Inc.
“That kind of example is one that we can all learn from no matter what stage of life you’re in,” said Patti Lyons, Senior Citizens, Inc. President.
Patti Lyons knew Eckburg for several years. She says she always admired his drive to better himself and his community.
“Each one of us has that capacity. Each one of us can be great.”
But it wasn’t the awards, the service or the money that made Eckburg great. Those who knew him say it was his humility.
“I’m not sure that it’s anything that can be taught or replicated. Savannah, our region, has lost a great community leader,” said Dr. Kathy Love, Savannah Technical College President.
A painful loss, but one that has a lasting impact.
Eckburg was honored last year at the Senior Citizens, Inc. luncheon with the “Life Well Lived” award. Below is a video made by WTOC before the event: