Hundreds honor Dr. Eck
VAIL – One of the more memorable events of 2006 will be the Vail Valley Medical Foundation Community Dinner. It was not the decorations, although the Marriott was draped in colorful linens. It was not the food, although the cuisine was scrumptious. It was not the staff, although the Marriott’s service was impeccable.
It was the people, the faces of our community – the over 600 guests who came to honor a local favorite and hero of sorts, Dr. Jack Eck. This was not the typical group one expects to see at the valley’s various fundraisers and social events. There were numerous ski patrollers – part of Jack’s “medical fraternity” on the hill – as well as doctors, nurses and interns. There also were many of Vail’s familiar faces – those who arrived in the 1960s and early 70s with Jack – along with plenty of 30-somethings, many of whom Jack cared for since their entry into the world. And then there was the Vail Associates-Vail Resorts contingency attending in full force to honor a compatriot. The combination created a perfect blend of sincerity and an energy that was contagious. It was “old Vail” even though many of the faces were young.
“The dinner honoring Dr. Jack Eck was truly a celebration of community,” said Lisa Pease, vice president of development for the Vail Valley Medical Center Foundation. “Jack has touched so many people from all walks of life throughout our mountain region. Hundreds of people came together to thank and honor him for his many contributions. It was an evening of pure joy, and as Jack reminded us that evening, it was not a retirement party.” For 35 years, Eck has lived in the Vail Valley and has touched more lives than one can imagine through his medical practice as well as his philanthropic endeavors. Eck’s speech touched on many old stories – including the hospital’s humble beginning in 1962 at the Red Lion restaurant – and yet at the same time reminded us of remarkable stories and traditions created every day here in our valley.
Finishing his tour of duty as a flight surgeon in Vietnam, Eck’s arrival in Vail gave life to a struggling medical community. Eck created the Vail Ski Patrol’s medical training program and worked tirelessly to raise funds for the much needed town medical facility that opened its doors on East Meadow Drive. Never one to sit back and rest on his laurels, Eck started the hospital’s intensive care unit, the cardio-pulmonary unit and eventually created the hospice program. Through Eck’s leadership on the Vail Valley Medical Foundation Board, the state-of-the-art Shaw Regional Cancer Center was built in Edwards. Today, the Vail Valley Medical Center provides health care for 50,000 residents in six counties. Dan Aguilar presented the “Service Above Self” Award, a framed Tibetan prayer scarf. Aguilar received the scarf from a Tibetan delegation when he was honored with the Targa d’Argento, or “silver plaque” award, in Pinzolo, Italy.
Aguilar sacrificed his own attempt to summit Mt. Everest in order to help local sherpas. He gave the scarf to the Vail Valley Medical Center Foundation in 2005 to be preserved and presented as the Service Above Self Award. “It was an inspirational and memorable evening,” said Kathleen Eck, Jack’s wife. “We are all so very proud to be part of this community with its incredible individuals which, of course, Jack is certainly up top. We are grateful for everyone joining us.”Vail, Colorado