TRAVERSE CITY — Raymond William Eckert Jr., 79, of Fife Lake, passed away on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at Munson Medical Center.
Ray was born on Sept. 5, 1934, in Indianapolis, Ind., to the late Raymond and Lillie (Ferre) Eckert. At a young age, Ray moved with his family to the Muskegon area on Beach Street on the shores of Lake Michigan. He attended Bunker School and graduated from high school as a member of the 1953 class of “Big Reds.” Ray was inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame with the Muskegon Big Reds 1951 State Champion Football team.
Ray met and married Margaret “Midge” Westerlund and together had four children. On Dec. 3, 1983, Ray entered into marriage with the former Bethel Ashbay, celebrating 29 years together at their home in Fife Lake.
Ray served his masonry apprenticeship in Muskegon. In 1959 he moved his family to the Portage/Kalamazoo area. There he started Eckert Masonry, working hard to support his family. He was an avid hunter and fisherman. He often took the opportunity to travel north and eventually established a hunting cabin for friends and family. He made the move to northern Michigan permanent in 1978.
Ray was an enthusiastic outdoorsman to say the least. He was in his element in the great outdoors. Fall was Ray’s favorite time of year as hockey and hunting season approached. He also enjoyed time on or near the water fishing and duck hunting and was a member of Ducks Unlimited. Ray’s talent for perfection was evident in his trade and work, but also displayed artistically in his hand carved decoys. He held a professional Decorative Decoy Carver ranking. His carvings were contested and judged all over the United States and Canada, where he won many 1st place ribbons and best of show awards. In 1984, his Rainbow Trout won the first World’s Best of Show Fish Carving. Ray was acknowledged for his championship carving work spanning from water fowl and other birds to fish. He was a member of the Walton Junction Sportsmen Club, the Bricklayers Union Local 17 of Kalamazoo, and attended Fife Lake United Methodist Church. Ray was proud to be a mason. It was an art that he could do with a trowel. He was instrumental with the restoration of the Mitchell House in Cadillac. Ray will be deeply missed for his outgoing and opinionated nature, as well as for his supportive, loving and adventurous spirit.
Ray is survived by his wife, Bethel of Fife Lake; his sons, Greg (Lisa) Eckert of Marquette and Jeff (Susan) Eckert of Kalamazoo; daughter, Jill (Jim) Corstange also of Kalamazoo; son-in-law Wolfgang Dittmer of Conn., seven grandchildren, several great-grandchildren and many other loving family members and friends.
Ray was preceded in death by his daughter, Deborah Dittmer, his parents and siblings.
Visitation for friends and family will be held from 4-7 p.m., on Wednesday, Sept.18, at Hall-Holdship Funeral Home in Manton. Funeral services will be conducted at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 also at the funeral home with Pastor Mark Mitchell officiating. A private interment and committal service will be at Liberty Township Cemetery.
Memorial contributions in memory of Ray may be directed to Wings of Wonder.
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family online at http://www.hall-holdship.com.