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Patricia Wood Eckels


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

LEBANON, NH — Patricia Wood Eckels, 92, died at home August 3, 2019, with family by her side. Patti was well known as the indefatigable head of the Howe Library in Hanover from 1967 to 1987.

Patti, the only child of Marcus and Evadna Simmons Wood, was born May 1, 1927, in Little Falls, New York, a town with limited opportunities for an ambitious young woman. Following graduation as valedictorian of her high school class, Patti attended Wellesley College, graduating in 1948 with a degree in psychology. In her sophomore year, Patti met David Turner Eckels, a newly commissioned naval officer. They married in July 1948, following his discharge from the service and her graduation, and immediately moved to their new home in the Pacific Northwest, where their first three children were born. In 1956, the family moved to southern California, where their fourth child was born.

After their youngest started school, Patti obtained a master’s degree in library science at Immaculate Heart College. In 1966, the family relocated to Hanover, where Dave was offered a position as development officer at Dartmouth, his alma mater. That fall, Patti began volunteering at the Hanover Elementary School library. Longtime school librarian Fran Richmond recognized Patti’s potential and encouraged her to apply for the head librarian opening at Howe Library. During a distinguished 20-year career, Patti transformed the private library that had been in a cramped, historic home into a modern, brand new facility operated by the Town, and one of the most respected public libraries in New England. In recognition of her contributions, Patti was named 1974’s Ideal Librarian of the Year by the New Hampshire State Advisory Council of Libraries. She was a charter member of the New Hampshire State Advisory Committee on Libraries, and advised both the state library and the statewide library system. Patti also authored a history of Howe Library titled Emily’s Legacy for Howe’s 100th anniversary celebration.

She gracefully found the balance between family and career, even given the challenges introduced in 1968 when neurological symptoms and surgery left Dave a paraplegic. Their lives were never defined by that sudden and drastic complication. Patti and Dave loved to travel, which included taking each of their grandchildren on an unforgettable 7th-grade trip to his/her chosen city. After retirement, they also enjoyed summers at their camp on Echo Lake in northeastern Vermont, where family and friends were always welcome.

After Dave’s death in 1999, Patti expanded her travels, audited classes at Dartmouth, and made the most of her Hopkins Center membership. An active community volunteer wherever she lived, Patti was a board member and for many years Voter Services chair of the League of Women Voters, served three terms on the Board of Lebanon College, and upon her retirement became a volunteer for Hospice and then the Palliative Care Service at DHMC. She was a reading mentor in the Everybody Wins! program at the White River School and was also active in her Unitarian Universalist congregations, serving on their boards, committees and in their religious education programs.

Patti is survived by her four children: Marc (Lyn) Eckels, Park City, Utah; Woody (Emily) Eckels, Etna, New Hampshire; Laurie (Keith) Gee, Charleston, Vermont; and Ellen (Jon) Martin, Gainesville, Florida; twelve grandchildren: David (Haley), Christopher, John, and James Eckels; Dan (Amanda) Eckels, Liza Eckels (Joe Knoedler), Sam and Jake Farnham; Dylan Gee (David Anderson) and Andrew Gee; and Peter and Eric Martin; and four great-grandchildren: Betty and James Eckels; Harry Knoedler; and Parker Gee, plus one more on the way.

The family wishes to thank Dr. Lisa Furmanski, Bayada Hospice, Hilda Jeffrey, and APD/Harvest Hill staff for their compassionate care.

Patti’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 28, at 2:00 p.m., at First Universalist Society Church, Hartland, Vermont. Contributions in her memory may be addressed to Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF), 1536 Loomis Hill Road, Waterbury, VT 05677, clifonline.org; or The Howe Library Corporation, 13 South Street, Hanover, NH 03755, thehowe.org/donate.