Tom Eichman Memorial

August 13, 2016

This is the text of the memorial service for my Dad composed and delivered by Marshall Dunn, retired senior pastor of University Christian Church, and a long-time neighbor and good friend of our family.

Prelude: “Moon River”

Call to Worship:

My name is Marshall Dunn, a retired minister who served 31 years in this congregation. But my reason for leading today’s memorial service is that since 1980 Tom and Alice have been our next door neighbors and dear friends—and now their son Peter’s good friend as well. I am also standing here because several years ago Tom was looking ahead to this day and asked me to lead his memorial service. I said I’d be honored and so I am.

Why are we here today? We are here to do four things:

First and foremost, we are here to celebrate the life of an exceptional man. This will not be a sad memorial service because we are going to be remembering Tom’s long, productive and until recently very happy life. So, we are here to express our gratitude and joy that we were in the orbit of his love, laughter and wisdom.

Having said that we are also here to grieve, just a little. Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn” and so we shall. We need to acknowledge the reality that Tom’s death does leave something of a hole in our hearts. So we come to draw comfort from our memories and from one another.

Third, we are here to GIVE comfort. We are here to say to this wonderful family that we care deeply about them, and will be there for them in the days ahead. We are here to put our arms around them and each other in ways that begin healing.

And fourth, every time we come to say goodbye to someone we have loved it is an excellent opportunity for us to truly appreciate the gift of life itself. Part of the reason our lives are so precious is that they are finite—so we come vowing to make the most of the time we have remaining, and in this case, learning some important lessons from the special person we come to honor and remember.

Tom was very close to his family and had a terrific mother who was a poet. I would now like to read or really PRAY one of her poems entitled “My Thanks.”

“My Thanks”, by Hazel Eichman

Tom loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. But so does his brother-in-law, Maurie, whose health did not allow him to be here today in person but his wife Mary is present and brought a CD he made. You have been hearing it before the service began but I’d like you to listen now as he sings “How Great Thou Art”

“How Great Thou Art”, performed by Maurie Goode


Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Revelation 21, King James Version (KJV)

21 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

Will you please pray with me.....

Most of us here have experienced an extraordinary man whose life has touched and blessed countless people beyond this room. We are grateful for his family and many great friends. We are grateful for his long and loving marriage to Alice and for all they have meant to one another. We are grateful for their exceptional son whose devotion to them speaks volumes about who they are.

But most of all we are thankful for Tom and all he has meant to us and to everyone who knew him. He made this a better, more loving, more gentle world. We are grateful for his remarkably keen and highly educated mind, his easy laughter, and the countless ways he cared for all those lucky enough to be his family and friends.

We ask for comfort for that family who now must go on without him. We especially pray for Alice and Peter and for his devoted sisters, Mary and Pat. Strengthen and encourage them and help them feel OUR love and support. And finally, we ask for the inspiration and commitment to live more like Tom, fully, joyfully, selflessly. May his spirit fill us and live in us....... Amen.

Doxology (requested by Tom in his Five Wishes Document—along with Moon River and Bridge Over Troubled Water) Please stand as you are able.


Peter’s tribute

Mary’s and Pat’s tributes (Marshall reads)

Michelle Spear, Mary’s daughter, will speak

Judi (a cousin) writes this about Tom’s childhood (Marshall reads)

Marshall’s remarks:

On December 17th, 1940 Thomas and Hazel Eichman presented Mary with a baby brother. He would be a middle child and the only boy, welcoming his sister Pat a few years later. As you heard from his cousin the extended family was very close and almost every Sunday included visits to one or both sets of grandparents who lived quite near.

Alice and Peter told me that Tom worked with his dad at a gas station, and loved that special bonding time together. He was also famous for playing so enthusiastically with younger cousins and really loved his sisters. Tom never lost his love for children and for music, and his rich baritone graced the choir at his family’s Methodist church.

His Iowa roots ran deep and it was important to Tom that Peter knew his Iowa family. He loved visiting and was seldom more animated than when talking about his Midwestern past!

After high school Tom began his almost lifelong pursuit of academic degrees! His Bachelors in Math and German came in 1962 at the University of South Dakota; and his MA in German Language, literature and linguistics was awarded in 1965.

He had been in ROTC and went into the army for two years where he was stationed primarily at Ft. Meade. It was there working for NSA that he met a young colleague on his 25th birthday, no less. Her name was Alice and he would readily agree that she was by far the best birthday gift he ever received! They married one another on November 26th, 1966 and spent almost fifty years as spouses and best friends.

By now it was time for more academics so Tom started his PhD in German Linguistics in 1967 and became Dr. Eichman in 1970. While the NSA was his longest single employer Tom’s greatest happiness seemed to come from being a college professor, first at Indiana State University, but also taught at the University of Maryland, UMBC, Montgomery College, some of that time teaching English as a Second Language to students from other countries. Tom loved to talk and college classrooms were filled with captive audiences which was perfect!

In 1980 he and Alice bought and moved into the house next door to ours in University Hills, eight tenths of a mile from here. FINALLY after almost 16 years of marriage they produced their very best work, a baby boy named Peter! He was and is their pride and joy and is a impressive man and devoted son (and I promise Peter did not pay me to say that)!

One thing Tom and his son thoroughly enjoyed was their Sunday plan that took the two of them to 13 Orioles games every year. They were and are gung ho fans, loved their time together and Peter still has those tickets to this day! They were famous to MY kids as the neighbors who did not own a TV, which seemed unimaginable to them, but Tom DID enjoy listening to Orioles games on the radio (remember radio)?

Other things Tom loved? Reading, photography (he was very good), swimming four or five times a week (he took lessons and learned to swim as an adult), editing our University Hills Civic Association newsletter, singing, and reading some more! He loved books and if you know him his collection of books is truly prodigious. He published a number of articles during his distinguished career but probably his happiest project came after retirement when he conducted long interviews with his mom and Alice’s mom to produce two oral histories that are much appreciate by the family. What a great idea!

I know we are focused today on celebrating Tom’s life but we also need to be honest that these past six years have been very hard for Tom and for Alice and Peter. Poor Tom suffered with cancer and radiation, a heart attack, strokes, and hardest of all loss of memory and the normal use of his extraordinary mind. He could be very stubborn and difficult, yet, through it all Alice and Peter have been his pillars of support. They are also very grateful for the loving and skilled care he received at home for almost three years from Mabel and Julienne.

I have promised Alice and Peter that time is their friend and that as the months go by they will increasingly remember the exceptionally bright, happy, loving husband and father they knew and loved, and the memories of these past several challenging years will increasingly recede.

Tom had a very good life! Was it as healthy or as long as we would have hoped? Of course not! But for 70 years he lived his life to the full, and made this world a better place.

In his Five Wishes document Tom wrote that he would hope to be remembered as thoughtful and kind. Well, Tom, your wish has come true. That’s exactly how we remember you, alongside bright, funny, and one who soaked up knowledge like a sponge! We are so grateful that we were lucky enough to be in the orbit of that life as Tom’s family and dear friends, and most of us believe he is in infinitely, wonderfully alright in a place Jesus simply described as “Paradise.”

His mother Hazel captured that hope and promise in her poem “I See the Angels Smile.”

“I See the Angels Smile”, by Hazel Eichman

Invite all to stay for something to eat, viewing photos and sharing memories.


Postlude: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Photo by Fred Agler