Well respected, dependable, calm, meticulous, passionate, straight-forward, smart, intuitive, dedicated and no-nonsense are several words that co-workers and close friends of Dr. Michael Ecker used to describe him.
“To say that over the course of time he touched thousands of people would be a gross understatement,” said Kevin Sellheim Administrator of the Sleepy Eye Medical Center.
Dr. Ecker graduated from the College of St. Thomas and then attended Creighton Medical School in Omaha, Neb. He completed his Family Practice Residency at Creighton Medical Center. He joined the Sleepy Eye Medical Clinic in July 1980, where he was a Family Practice Physician until his death.
“You don’t see docs like him anymore,” said Leo Derkowski, SEMC Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator. “He was the quintessential country doctor. You can almost see him in a Model T with a black bag trekking out to the farm to deliver a baby.”
This is a sentiment echoed by all – that Ecker was always there and always took the time to care. Many in the community have reached out to comment this week, stressing his caring spirit, no-nonsense attitude and faithful dedication that made him a unique and well-respected doctor and friend.
Carrie Solma, Dietary Manager at SEMC recalled a time when she was cleaning the old clinic building after everyone had left and as she opened the dumpster to throw the trash in Dr. Ecker jumped out at her.
“He literally scared her to death,” Sellheim said.
“He was notorious for playing Pee Wee Herman over the intercom and paging Pee Wee Herman to lighten the mood. That was one of his favorites,” said Rachel Severson, Health Information Manager.
According to co-workers Dr. Ecker also had a large collection of Happy Meal toys adorning the shelves in his office. He would collect the toys in the series and be very persistent until he had collected each toy.
“He was integrated into this organization at the deepest level and the people who worked with him every day have been deeply affected by his passing,” Sellheim said.
Sue Schweiss, Director of Nurses at SEMC, worked along side Dr. Ecker since he began in 1980. She said the thing that sticks out in her mind the most is Dr. Ecker’s dedication to the profession. She went on to say that patients and co-workers always knew what to expect from Dr. Ecker.
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She recalled a time when several co-workers and Dr. Ecker found a dead carp and put it in the previous Director of Nurses toilet. When she found it she placed it in Dr. Ecker’s car underneath the heater.
“He certainly will be missed.”
Dr. Murthy, who began practicing with Dr. Ecker in 1982, said he admires the way he practiced, took care of his patients and never hesitated to say or do what he thought was right, regardless of what anybody thought.
“He was a great friend and colleague of mine and one of the most excellent family practitioners that I have known in my 50 plus years of medical practice,” said Dr. Murthy. “We are really going to miss him. Our heartfelt sympathy to the family and the community for their great loss.”
For several years Dr. Murthy and Dr. Ecker were the only two physicians practicing at SEMC, resulting in them sharing the on-call duties 24 hours a day for 365 days a year.
In 1995, Dr. Ecker decided to step down from delivering babies and on Jan. 1, 2012, Dr. Ecker began easing out of the heavy workload by not being on call and only seeing clinic patients.
“This was a tremendous loss for not only his patients, but also the staff who worked with Dr. Ecker,” Sellheim said. “We are going to miss him not only as a doctor, but also a friend.”
The SEMC Board of Directors released a statement, saying, “We are saddened by the loss of Dr. Ecker. He was a meticulous, dedicated doctor to his patients, our community and the Sleepy Eye Medical Center. He will be greatly missed by all.”