The Rev. Joseph Cromer Eckstine died on Friday, March 21 and his service of committal was held at Trinity Episcopal Church Apalachicola.
Rev. Eckstine served as minister of the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Panama City from 1987 through 1989 During his ministry there I served as an elder of the church. After retiring there, he served as supply minister at churches in Port St. Joe and Apalachicola. Many years later, the Rev. Eckstine conducted the funeral of my first wife, Kendall H. Middlemas, and performed the marriage of my daughter Kendall and her husband Steve, as well as my marriage to my present wife, Kay.
Obviously I knew Rev. Eckstine well, and I must say that I have never known a kinder nor gentler man. To me he was the epitome of what a minister should be.
He understood and embraced the meaning of duty. He was a combat infantryman in Germany during World War II, and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
He would be honored throughout his life, for his fortitude and heart. In 1990 the Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta awarded its Distinguished Alumni Award to him. Included in the resolution of that presentation were these words:
“For his extraordinary leadership and service in the inner city (Macon, Georgia), serving the poor, the imprisoned, and the outcast, giving himself tirelessly to the mission of breaking down barriers of age, race, and class that divide God’s people”
And “For his remarkable sensitivity to the basic needs of persons, caring for their welfare and helping them to develop their potential and worth.
And “For his humility, his firm stand against bigotry, his commitment to education, his participation in city planning and many civic projects in the name of Jesus Christ.”
I pray that we find leaders throughout the world who will aspire to the guiding principles that governed Joseph Eckstine’s life.
John Robert Middlemas