William V. Hecker, 79, leader in revitalization of Ephrata

By on July 5, 2017

Served 14 years as council president, chaired numerous community organizations

William Vincent Hecker, born June 14, 1938, in Ephrata where he lived all his life, passed away on Friday, June 30, 2017, at the age of 79, after a yearlong battle with cancer, surrounded by family.

A Funeral Mass will be held, on Thursday, July 6, at 11 a.m., at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, 320 Church Ave., Ephrata. The family will begin receiving visitors at 9:30 a.m.

Bill is survived by his beloved wife: Betsy (Elizabeth Ann Tucker); son: Bill Hecker Jr. (Terry); daughter: Angela Graybill (Dwight); and son: Edward Hecker (Jodi); grandchildren: Donald Graybill, Savannah Graybill, Benjamin Graybill, Emily Hecker, and Matthew Hecker; and great-grandchildren: William Graybill and Ellie Graybill, and his siblings: Julia Radle, Myrtle Lausch, and John Hecker.

He was preceded in death by his daughter: Theresa; and parents: Warren and Alverta Hecker.

A lifelong resident of Ephrata, Bill attended Our Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church and graduated from Ephrata Senior High School in 1956. Afterwards, Bill studied engineering at Lebanon Valley College while also working for the state of Pennsylvania, building highways and bridges. A near-fatal car accident in 1960 interrupted his college education. After a lengthy recovery, he married his beautiful bride, Elizabeth Ann Tucker of Lancaster in 1962 and started a family.

Bill began his professional career in the 1960s with New Holland Concrete, later known as New Enterprise Stone and Lime Company, Inc. as the manager of the concrete pipe plant. He eventually retired from the same company in the early 1990s, but not before building New Holland/New Enterprise to be one of the most advanced and successful plants on the east coast and also serving as president of the National Concrete Pipe Association of which he had been an active member for many years during his career.

For all who knew Bill well, it should not go unnoticed that his early work on roadways was likely the catalyst that led him to find the most interesting and picturesque route to almost every destination — and those riding in the back seat had better be of sturdy stock! Even after being diagnosed with cancer and presented with a short-term prognosis, Bill found the longer and far more picturesque road to follow, and was able to share many more active months with his family than his doctors had planned.

As a lifelong resident of the Ephrata community, it should come as no surprise that Bill would want to serve and give something back to the place he and his family called home. Bill was elected to the Ephrata Borough Council where he served for 20 years, 14 of those as president of the council. In addition, Bill was the chairman of the Ephrata Area Joint Authority (EAJA), and after his tenure on the council, he served as the chairman of the board of the Ephrata Economic Development Corporation (EEDC).

It is impossible to walk or drive through the Ephrata community and not see the positive impact that Bill’s tenure on these councils and boards brought to his hometown. Among the many projects he was most proud of are the restoration of the historic Mountain Springs Hotel, the redevelopment of the Sprecher’s Hardware building, the beautiful reconstruction of both Main and State Streets, the Ephrata Public Library and Rec Center, along with numerous utility projects, the Eicher Art Center, and a revitalization of the business base in the city with the addition of nation-wide companies establishing locations in Ephrata. Long after his retirement from serving the borough council, Bill continued serving on both the EEDC and EAJA boards. Bill also spent many years as a member of the Lions Club and working with the Boy Scouts.

Another endeavor very close to Bill’s heart was Ephrata’s relationship with her sister city in Eberbach, Germany. This connection of these two cities strengthened business ties as well as the foundation of Ephrata tourism since the first settlers in the Ephrata area were from Eberbach. Bill’s work within the sister city program created lasting friendships that his family will continue to treasure.

Bill’s faith life was instilled and nurtured by his parents, but it was practiced and centered through service to the faith community of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church (OMPH) and to the priests of St. Clement’s Mission House throughout his life. As a youth, Bill served as an altar boy, and as an adult, he served at various times with the Knights of Columbus, the Parish Council, and the Building Committee. Most will remember him as a faithful lector at the 7:30 a.m. mass where he served continuously until he was no longer able.

A favorite story told often among family members recalls when a young Bill helped his father and other OMPH parishioners to build the OMPH fair stand for the annual Ephrata Fair. After his father’s passing, Bill and his wife, Betsy, continued to volunteer with the OMPH fair stand for many years, even though the Ephrata Fair always fell on their wedding anniversary date. But with silver linings being what they are, it became a tradition to stop for a moment during their volunteer shift to buy each other a hot dog and celebrate their anniversary right there at the fair! This tradition continued long after they passed their OMPH fair stand duties to the next group of younger volunteers. As a special remembrance of this tradition, a hot dog was ceremoniously served to each of them at their 50th wedding anniversary, symbolizing how their devotion to each other had always included others such as their family, church, and community.

A sports fan through and through, Bill loved them all; football, basketball, baseball  — you name it — he would watch. He enjoyed keeping up with not only college and professional sports, but also local high school sports. His grandchildren introduced him to the finer points of field hockey, track and field, soccer, volleyball and T-ball, and he became an instant fan. His personal sport of choice was Golf, and he never missed an outing ­ whether it was with his sons and grandsons, his high school buddies, lifelong friends, or a stranger who would show up with a golf cart and a nine-iron. (This was how you could become a lifelong friend!)

Those who know Bill know he loved railroads ever since he was a child. His favorite hobby was collecting G-Scale model trains but in a close second were his antique toy trucks. Adults and children of all ages would love to come to Bill’s house and see the trains set up at Christmastime and get a glimpse of the shelves full of old metal toy trucks. On a grander scale, Bill became involved and enjoyed working with the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, serving for a long time on the board.

Over the course of 54 wonderful married years, Bill would consider his family to be his greatest gift. With Betsy by his side, they raised three amazing children, all of whom went on to earn college degrees and have families of their own. The annual summer trip to the Jersey Shore was a much-anticipated sojourn and another opportunity to be marveled by that incredible gift. As daughters and sons-in-laws and grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been added to the branches of the family tree, the size of the shore house has only remained the same, and yet everyone still wants to come! The gift that Bill always shared was that no matter where the family gathers, it is always home, and everyone knows that there is always room for one more. That gift was also evident when it came to spending holidays with Bill’s extended family. Where else but home would over 55 uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews gather for Thanksgiving, and there’d still be both room and food leftover for those who could not attend.

Papa, as his grandchildren and great-grandchildren knew him, was a great influence and example on their lives. After his retirement from professional life, he was not interested in pursuing only his own interests, but rather in having a presence in each of their lives, no matter the distances. Just as he considered his own children to be his greatest gifts, he found equally great pride in each of his grandchildren. Papa never tired when talking about the Naval Officer, the Rising Olympian, the Master Builder, the Soon-to-Graduate Nurse, and the Future Pharmacist. Of his great-grandchildren, he was still waiting to see if there would be a Potential Archeologist on the verge of discovering a new dinosaur species or if there would be a new Disney Princess ruling in the neighboring kingdom.

Bill Hecker would become a friend to nearly everyone that he ever met. No matter where he traveled — within the city, the county, the state, the country, or the continent — there was always a pretty good chance that he would run in to someone that he knew from some aspect of his professional, political or personal life. During the course of this last year right up until his time with us grew short, many of those friends made the journey to see him and to say goodbye. And as always happens when someone comes to the house to visit with Bill, they will have left experiencing that special gift of family that burns from within his heart.

There were many roles Bill had throughout his life, but to his family, the only two that mattered were those of husband and father. And because of his family, those were the roles that he prioritized above all else. May we all work as hard, treat people as well, and live as full as you have. Until we meet again.

Bill’s family would like to thank the staff of the IVU department at Lancaster General Hospital and the staff at the Barshinger Cancer Institute for their kindness and care over the course of his illness, as well as Hospice and Community Care for their guidance, understanding, and care in his final days.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to be made to Our Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic School, 330 Church Ave., Ephrata PA 17522; or the Ephrata Pioneer Fire Company, Attn. James Kiefer, 135 S. State St., Ephrata PA, 17522.

Arrangements by Stradling Funeral Homes, Inc., Akron/Ephrata. Online condolences can be given at stradlingfuneralhome.com.

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