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Wilma N. Eckman, a homemaker, and widow of local sportscaster, dies

Wilma N. Eckman, a homemaker who was the widow of Baltimore sports radio legend Charley Eckman, died Wednesday from cardiovascular disease at Serenity House of Mooresville in Mooresville, N.C.

The former Glen Burnie resident was 95.

The daughter of farmers John Franklin Howard and Annie Belle Cornelius Howard, Wilma Neita Howard was one of 11 children in the family, and was raised in Sherrills Ford, N.C. She graduated in 1939 from Sherrills Ford High School.

She met her future husband, Charles Markwood “Charley” Eckman, in 1941 when he was playing second base for the Mooresville Moors, a minor league baseball team that played in the North Carolina State and Tar Heel leagues. At the time, she was working as a 20-year-old waitress at Stonestreet Cafe in Mooresville.

“I was busy working when the boss asked me to serve a customer his dessert. It was a chocolate sundae,” Mrs. Eckman told The Baltimore Sun at the time of her husband’s death in 1995.

“I’ll never forget it. He introduced himself later at the cash register and asked me out, and we got married three days later,” she recalled. “We went over the state line to get married and then took a day coach to Baltimore because we couldn’t afford a Pullman berth.”

The couple settled at his boyhood home on Stricker Street and moved in 1948 to Glen Burnie.

As Mr. Eckman’s career advanced — he was a collegiate and National Basketball Association referee, coach of the Fort Wayne Pistons and the first coach of the Detroit Pistons — she was always at his side.

“When he was winning so many games with the Pistons, he attributed it to a special shirt he was wearing,” said a daughter, Linda Watts of Mooresville. “When the press asked how he could keep on wearing the same shirt, [Mrs. Eckman] made him a second one.”

He later became a Baltimore radio and TV personality. He worked for WCBM and WFBR radio and a panelist for WJZ-TV’s “Square Off,” as well as an announcer for the Baltimore Bullets, Colts, Orioles, Baltimore Blast and the Penn National racetrack.

Her husband’s “brash style and sometimes insensitive comments brought some censure through the years, such as the time he remarked that the Japanese winner of the Boston Marathon ‘must have thought he was being chased by an atom bomb,’ ” according to his 1995 obituary.

“I know she didn’t agree with everything he said,” Ms. Watts said, “but she was the glue that held everything together. She was the homebody he needed, and they always worked things out.”

“She always said her life was exciting and they learned from each other. She was an angel who kept the family and house together. She always said it was a fun life,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Eckman was an accomplished cook.

“It was Southern country cooking, where everything was fresh,” her daughter said. “Daddy was always inviting people and bringing them home, and his Jewish friends liked the way she prepared pork.”

Mrs. Eckman, who returned to Mooresville in 1997, was an excellent seamstress and gardener, family members said.

She was always flattered when people found out who her husband was. “She always loved hearing their stories and telling stories,” Ms. Watts said.

Mrs. Eckman was a former member of Harundale Presbyterian Church in Harundale.

She was a member of Rehobeth United Methodist Church in Mooresville, where funeral services were held Friday.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her son, Barry Eckman of Chocowinity, N.C.; two other daughters, Janet Eckman of Annapolis and Anita Gail Eckman of Yadkinville, N.C.; seven grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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