Remembering Manchester's Tim Eckels Jr., the way he would have wanted

Tim Eckels Sr. talks about the living memorial event he organized to remember his son Tim Eckels Jr., who was among the 10 Navy sailors killed when the USS John S. McCain crashed just over a year ago.

It was about charity. About live music. Art. Tattoos. Skateboards. Beer. Food.

But mostly, it was about Timmy.


Friends, family, colleagues and unknowing beer enthusiasts gathered Saturday at Monument City Brewing Company in Baltimore to celebrate the life of Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Eckels Jr.

Eckels Jr., a Manchester native, was among the 10 sailors killed aboard the USS John S. McCain when it collided with a merchant vessel near Singapore on Aug. 21, 2017. The information systems technician was 23.

“When these accidents happen there’s sadness and an outpouring of feelings and remembrance,” his father, Tim Eckels Sr., told the Times. “We wanted to create a living memorial, or living legacy, and keep Timmy’s name out there and continuously support the charity.”

All proceeds from the event were to be donated to Believe in Tomorrow, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that supports critically ill children and their families.

“Having lost a child all of the sudden, we basically went to bed one night and woke up and we didn’t have Timmy anymore,” Eckels said. “Believe does such a good service because they help families that are dealing with critically ill children. I think that’s even somewhat of a more grueling process.”

The living memorial featured a silent auction, food trucks, live bands and art. The artwork combined two of Eckels Jr.’s interests: tattoos and skateboarding.

“We’ve got 10 skateboard decks, blank decks,” Eckels said. “And at one point we reached out to local artists, people that either do art on the side or, there’s a lot of tattoo artists involved, and they transformed these skateboard decks into pieces of art.”

One deck had a particularly sentimental feel. Eckels reached out to tattoo artist Jason Lynn, who inks people at House of Madness Tattoo Emporium & Odditorium in Hampstead, to request that he paint a deck.

Eckels’ request of Lynn was far from random.

“When (Timmy) went in the Navy, I did his traditional eagle with an anchor tattoo,” Lynn told the Times. When Eckels reached out about the board, “I knew right away what I was going to do,” he said.

Lynn created an exact replica of Eckels Jr.’s Navy tattoo with acrylic paint on the skateboard. A bald eagle’s talons grip the crown of a teal anchor, its white-feathered head wraps around the shank and its red-tipped wings reach horizontally in both directions.

Eckels was impressed with all the decks.

“When you send a bunch of blank skateboards out into the universe you never know what you’re going to get back,” said Eckels, gazing at the 10 carefully designed boards mounted at Monument City. “I think they’re all great … different. It’s a great collection of art.”

But the Navy-inspired deck evoked nostalgia.


“It was a great tattoo,” said Damion Currier, a Navy information systems technician who was on the McCain with Eckels Jr.

“(Eckels Jr.) was a great guy,” Currier said, leaning against a wooden counter at the brewery. “He worked in my shop the whole year I was on the McCain.”

Eckels Jr. was the first one to help out new sailors, and he was sharp, Currier explained. “I never met somebody that could pick up on things so quickly: One minute you’re training him, the next he was training someone else.”

But the young sailor had another life, too. One spent off the ship with family, friends and fun.

Eckels Jr. was an avid fisherman, he loved his music and cooking, he was nerd at heart, said Rob Zuckerman, a former Navy sailor and Eckels Jr.’s longtime friend. “Tim loved slamming bass,” Zuckerman said. “He was the reason I bought a fishing pole when I moved to Maryland.”

“I think it’s awesome that a lot of good is coming from something [sad],” Zuckerman said, flanked by Currier on his left. “I didn’t know Damion 15 minutes ago.”

The former and current Navy sailors enjoyed their Monument City beers: an IPA for Zuckerman and a pilsner for Currier. Eckels Jr. would’ve wanted this event — it fits his personality, they both said.

“But I think Tim would’ve been happy with a PBR,” Zuckerman joked.

Like the goal of the charity it supported, the event served as a moment of respite to those still deeply grieving Eckels Jr.’s loss.

“I miss him a whole lot,” said Shirley Pinkston, Eckels Jr.’s grandmother. “He always picked me up of the floor. He would say, ‘It’s OK, Grandma.’ ”

Pinkston described Eckles Jr. as a peacemaker. She said they would stay up into the wee hours of the morning talking, when her grandson visited.

“I’m glad to be here celebrating him with a lot of people,” she said, tears welling up. “It kind of makes me feel better.

“These people are going to carry his legacy with them.”

As music blared, the beer flowed. Megan Curry, a work friend of Eckels Jr., manned the brewery entrance, encouraging patrons to buy raffle tickets. When they did, the people walked the aisle of prizes up for bid, dropping tickets in small buckets stationed beside them.

Asked if Eckels Jr. would’ve liked the event, Curry responded, “Oh yeah!

“The skateboards, the music, the family, the friends … It’s what he would’ve liked.”