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The Suburbanite
  • Longtime Nolley School teacher Joanne Eckert dies

  • Former Nolley Elementary School teacher Joanne (Ruthenberg) Eckert, 86, died Sept. 2 surrounded by family and friends.

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  • Former Nolley Elementary School teacher Joanne (Ruthenberg) Eckert, 86, died Sept. 2 surrounded by family and friends.
    Many in the Manchester community associated Joanne with Mickey Mouse hats and love for all things Disney. She and her husband travelled to Walt Disney World at least once a year.
    “She loved Disney and Mickey for what they stood for--for finding you inner kid, embracing your inner kid and celebrating everything pure and joyful about life,” said Kristy Eckert Wagner, Joanne's granddaughter.
    Eckert will be remembered for much more than a teacher with a love of Disney.
    Manchester superintendent Samuel Reynolds said Joanne was an example for everyone in terms of children and education. She mentored new faculty members over the course of more than 30 years of teaching and was known for lesson plans that applied to the needs of all the kids in her classroom.
    “When I came [to Manchester] in 1970,” Reynolds said, “She had been there 12 years and she was doing intervention work then - way before the state required it.”
    Eckert was also a member of the PTA throughout her entire career. After her retirement in 1990, she volunteered in the school system.
    “We’ll never replace her,” Reynolds said. “She loved this place and did countless hours of service even after her retirement.”
    Reynolds described Joanne as a typical member of the “The Greatest Generation,” those who lived through the Depression and WWII.
    “They did things and they didn't complain,” Reynolds said. “A large part of her life was providing service and contributing to a community. When you met her, you saw that.”
    This year, the Manchester Alumni Association named Eckert the inaugural recipient of the outstanding faculty award, which she was excited about. Eckert had spent the three months prior to her death in the hospital but willed herself to health for the day the award was presented this summer.
    “To receive an award that said, ‘You did good’ meant everything to her,” Wagner said. “Teaching was such an important thing for her.”
    Reynolds said Eckert was a positive person and that, despite her aliments, she never spoke of her condition, only the schools.
    Watercolor painting, especially landscapes, was something Eckert enjoyed and had a talent for. She took classes for several years, and when arthritis inhibited her from continuing to paint with her right hand, she simply began using her left. In recent years, she painted a Christmas scene to use for her holiday cards in December.
    The Ohio State Buckeyes were another of Eckert’s interests. She impressed others with her ability to recite statistics and analyze sports. She cheered and hollered at games. One of her last requests was to watch the Ohio State football game Sept. 1, which she did.
    Page 2 of 2 - Wagner recalled her grandmother's sports boldness carrying over to one of her high school basketball games. During the game, Eckert approached a college scout, who was there to watch another player, introduced herself, and told him he should scout her granddaughter.
    Even in her later years, Eckert was full of excitement and vigor. During a family vacation to Tennessee, an 80-year-old Eckert rode a mechanical bull and got a T-shirt for her achievement.
    “She never wanted to be boring, she wanted to be adventurous,” Wagner said.
    This October, the family has plans to go to Disney World and, since Eckert completed this year’s watercolor before her death, they will receive one last card from her.
    Eckert was daughter to Henry and Delcie Ruthenberg. She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Walt Eckert; children Annie and Gary Cole, Skip and Connie Eckert, Don Eckert and Bobby and Kim Eckert; 11 grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren and dozens of other family members.
    Her family will host a celebration of her life Saturday, Sept. 15 at 4 p.m. at Christ United Methodist Church, 380 Mineola Ave., Akron. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Nolley Elementary PTA, 6285 Renninger Rd., Akron, or Christ United Methodist Church.