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Westchase Couple Celebrates 72nd Anniversary

Nov. 11 will mark Veterans Day as our country honors its military.

This special day also marks 72 years of wedded bliss for Fords resident and Air Force Sergeant Robert Eckert and his wife Mary Jean.

Originally from Dunellen, New Jersey, Robert enlisted in the Air Force during World War II. His assignment as a tail gunner positioned him at the rear of a B25 Mitchell Bomber aircraft. While strapped to a small seat nestled at the back of the plane,

Eckert was responsible for watching out for enemy fire approaching the aircraft from the rear. It was a huge responsibility for a young man in his early 20s. Yet after serving in this position for more than 45 missions over China, Burma and India,

Eckert does not consider himself a war hero. As he reflects upon those servicemen who died serving our country, he considers himself quite fortunate to have survived. Even for those soldiers who served as his opponents from foreign nations,

Eckert felt sympathy. “Those people were also dads with families,” he said of those he had to fire upon.

“He felt it down to his toes,” Maryjean said of her husband’s ordeal in the military.

“I was proud, though, to serve my country and to carry out the assignments that were given to me,” Robert said.

Originally from Indiana, Mary Jean traveled to Wisconsin for a two-week vacation with a friend in 1941. “My friend said there were lots of cute guys at the Air Force base there,” she said with a chuckle. Set up on a blind date, the couple met after dinner one night at hotel lounge where they enjoyed drinks and an evening walk. They saw each other one more time after that evening before he was sent back out to war.

The couple got to know one another and eventually fell in love through the mail. They wrote letters back and forth for the next four years. One day, while she was working at her job at a department store, she was told a package had been delivered to her house. “I took a streetcar home during my lunch period to see what it was,” she said.

Mary Jean returned to work later that afternoon with an engagement ring on her finger.

After the war, the couple married in a small church as he stood proudly in his uniform and she in a rose colored suit. “There wasn’t time or money for much of anything else,” she said.

After a three-day honeymoon to Chicago, the couple made Dunellen their home while Robert took a job for Western Electric.

While Robert worked, Mary Jean took care of things on the home front. When asked for advice for a long happy marriage, she explained the couple never argues and they laugh often. “I always took care of things as they came up with our four boys and I didn’t bother him with those things when he got home from work,” she recalled.

An occasional serenade to his bride also helps keep things running smoothly between the couple. Robert even burst into his version of “All of Me” during the interview for this article as he gazed into her eyes.

Sharing an interest in art has also strengthened the couple. While she has always created amazing folk art paintings, Robert asked to borrow some pencils to try his hand at drawing. In his 70s at the time, he discovered a hidden talent he never knew he had. The intricate portraits and drawings he created over the years adorn the walls of their home alongside her artwork.

Happy anniversary to Robert and Mary Jean Eckert, a very special Westchase couple!

By Lisa Stephens

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