Obituary: Ted Eck / Expert in glass houses and floriculture

Sept. 20, 1935 -- Aug. 22, 2014

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Ted Eck’s eyes often were averted toward the earth.

Whether he was hiking through the mountains of Europe or strolling through the meadow of his 5-acre homestead in Pine or walking from his car to a store, Mr. Eck was looking to see what was sprouting from or crawling on the ground.

“He had such a love for things that grew, for nature. He knew what he loved, and he did what he loved, and so his heart sang,” his wife, Janet Eck, said Sunday, of her husband of 42 years, who died Friday from a sudden illness at the age of 78.

Theodore James Eck was born Sept. 20, 1935, in Oklahoma City. He was educated at the University of Illinois in floriculture, the art, science and study of blooming things. His formal education followed years of playing in the dirt and the waterways of Savannah, Ga.

“He was a farm kid,” said Mrs. Eck. As a child, he helped at his family’s nursery.

About 52 years ago, he took a job with Fred C. Gloeckner Co. of New York City as a horticultural consultant and salesman in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. He never retired from the position, which involved design and maintenance of “glass houses,” better known today as greenhouses.

Mrs. Eck said her husband was able to coax to life flowers and plants of all varieties, but it was a lit match that sparked the marriage that ultimately grew the couple’s family.

On a Saturday night in Shadyside, Mrs. Eck, then Janet Ecker, was out with her roommate for the evening. Ms. Ecker was smoking and had run out of matches. “I turned around and said, ‘Does anybody have a match?’” she recalled. Ted provided the spark that ultimately led to two daughters and a granddaughter.

A whirlwind romance culminated in marriage on March 4, 1973. Mrs. Eck said they were kindred spirits. She hailed from Derry, Westmoreland County, growing up on a dairy and poultry farm.

The couple bought a greenhouse in Bradford Woods just before they married, and their first home was a renovated 600-square-foot potting shed next to the greenhouse.

Within a couple of years, they had moved to a bigger home in Bradford Woods then settled 27 years ago in an old farmhouse in Pine. The property has an apple orchard, a wildflower meadow, open fields and two large vegetable gardens.

When he wasn’t working, Mr. Eck was mowing grass, raising hostas, coaching soccer or microbrewing beer.

Each day ended with the couple spending an hour on a side porch that they nicknamed “The Merlot Porch.” She with her wine, he with his microbrewed beer, they would talk of their day. “When we were done there every night, we’d hug one another and say, ‘Thank you for this wonderful life,’ ” she recounted.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughters, Raimee H. Eck of Baltimore and Thea A. Eck of Ann Arbor, Mich.; a son, Theron, from a previous marriage; a granddaughter, Fjora M. Eck-Shlian of Ann Arbor; and two foreign exchange students the couple played host to and considered children: William Rossi of Venezuala and Stefanie Koessler of Germany.

He was past president of the Men’s Garden Club of Pittsburgh, board member of the Pittsburgh Civic Gardens Center and the Penn State College of Agriculture Advisory Board and a longtime volunteer director of the Western Pennsylvania Flower Growers. He belonged to the West Mifflin Men’s Garden Club and the Hosta and Daylily Society. He helped establish the Pine-Richland High School girls soccer team and volunteered with the Children’s Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh and the Pine-Richland High School marching band. He and his wife led tours for many years to European gardens and played host to horticultural lectures.

He was a member of the St. Thomas Church-in-the-Fields vestry in Richland and was an usher there.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Schellhaas Funeral Home in Bakerstown. Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Thomas Church-in-the-Fields.


Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or at 724-772-9180.

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