Monday held a bittersweet feeling for staff and students at Richmond Hill Middle School when the school celebrated the life of the late Chip Eckwall and buried a time capsule commemorating the school’s first year.
The time capsule was buried in front of a weeping willow tree planted for Eckwall, a seventh grade science teacher who died in late April.
The ceremony included comments from students, a musical performance by RHMS band members and comments from Eckwall’s fellow teachers, Sherry Oddi and John Melcher.
The two shared memories of working with Eckwall with about 100 students who gathered around the weeping willow.
Oddi remembered a project Eckwall worked on as an English-Language Arts teacher at the school. She said the project consisted of building a jabberwocky—a dragon character in “Through the Looking Glass.”
Melcher told the students he considered Eckwall a friend and noted his dedication to the students.
“I know I’m a better person for knowing him, I think that you all are better scientists, better students and better young adults for knowing him,” Melcher said. “This is not a day for us to be sad, this is a day for us to rejoice in Mr. Eckwall, Chip, and everything he brought to us.”
RHMS Principal Dr. William McGrath said there was no particular reason a weeping willow tree was chosen, but he felt the tree would represent Eckwall.
“We thought it would be something flowing in the wind, something characteristic of the person it is representing,” he said. “It’s long living, has a lot of root system, and I think he set roots in the school system when he was here as a teacher, and he has touched a lot of people in a lot of ways. I think it’s a symbol of Mr. Eckwall.”
McGrath said the day was bittersweet, but noted the beauty in the day.
“It’s summed up by a beautiful day with sunshine, it’s almost like a fall day—it’s crisp, not too humid. It’s a beautiful day,” McGrath said.
Read more in the May 15 issue of the Bryan County News.