Rebecca Jean Eck, whose passion for music was felt throughout the Winter area for 50+ years, died on Wednesday June 7th in Rice Lake at the age of 91.
She was born March 3rd, 1927 in Independence, Iowa with music in her blood. Her father, O. M. Rowland, played guitar and sang while her mother, Doris, played piano and organ and also sang. Jean started studying piano at age 3 and was singing in the church choir when she was 6.
After high school in 1945 she moved to Dayton, Ohio and worked at the Wright-Patterson airbase in support of the troops of World War II. When the war ended she moved to Des Moines, Iowa and found work as a secretary for an insurance company. But music was her first love and she continued to sing and play piano and organ at church and also taught dance at the Arthur Murray dance school.
In 1952 she married Ken Eck in Independence, Iowa. They lived in Joliet, Illinois for a few years before heading north in the fall of 1959. With 2 little boys, and a 3rd one on the way, they found their way to Winter. With just $25 to their name they negotiated a land contract with Dick Steinke and bought Pike Haven Resort on Barber Lake. Jean kept her musical desires burning by giving private piano lessons and also being the main organist at St. Peters catholic church in Winter. A few years later she became the organist at Sacred Heart church in Radisson and St. Mary Magdalene church in Couderay.
In late fall of 1966 Jean was hired as a substitute vocal music teacher at the Winter School district for the 2nd semester while the choir director was on medical leave. It was those few months that got her teaching juices flowing. So in the fall of 1967 she began pursuing a degree in vocal music education at Mount Senario College in Ladysmith. She graduated in 1971 with honors and then got her first teaching job at Birchwood. A year later she was hired as the vocal music teacher in the Winter School district where she remained until her retirement in 1997.
Jeans pure love of vocal music was highlighted by having numerous students selected to the all-conference choir every year, plus she would regularly have 50-70 solo and ensemble groups at the yearly Lakeland Conference solo/ensemble competition. Many of those would also go on to the state competition.
In 1977 the new high school was opened in Winter and it included an auditorium. This fueled Jeans desire and love for musicals. In the spring of 1979, to test the waters, the choir did the entire score from Fiddler on the Roof. It was a huge hit with audiences so in the fall of 1979 she directed the first ever full scale musical in the school history. Calamity Jane played to a packed house every night and left the audience wanting more. So each fall Jean would direct another musical. They included My Fair Lady, Irene, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Finians Rainbow, South Pacific, Boys and Girls Together, Sound of Music, 110 in the Shade, among others.
Jean did get a chance to act in some musicals too at Mount Senario College during the 1970s. Then in 1982 she traveled to Vermont to be in a production of West Side Story.
Music and performing arts were her passion but she had other interests. They included gardening, swimming, playing cards, reading, watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, doing jigsaw puzzles, and traveling. Also every Friday night you could find her at Dixs Chalet enjoying a fish fry.
Her impact has been felt far and wide and she has left an indelible mark on the 1000s of people who knew her.
Jean will be deeply missed by her 6 sons: John and his girlfriend Cindy of Madisonville, Tennessee, Rick and his wife Jane of Butler, Wisconsin, Greg and his girlfriend Amy of Hayward, Bill of Winter, Brian and his wife Tammy of Belvedere, Illinois, and Paul in St. Louis, Missouri. Her 2 brothers Bill in California, Ben in Iowa, and her sister Rita in Missouri. Plus 17 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by a brother John, a sister Diane, an infant son Joseph, and by her special son Terry Lee.
Visitation is Friday evening, June 15, from 4-8 at the Hayward Funeral Home. Family and friends are invited to join the Eck clan after visitation at the Steakhouse and Lodge in Hayward for socializing and appetizers.
There will also be a visitation at the St. Peters Catholic church in Winter on Saturday, June 16, starting at 12:00.
The Funeral service will be held on Saturday at 1:00 at St. Peters Catholic Church in Winter. Burial will be at the Winter Cemetery. After the service there will be a catered lunch in the church fellowship hall.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.bratley-nelsonchapels.com