Mary Frances Ecker, Montauker, Was 89

Oct. 20, 1928-Aug. 19, 2018
Mary Frances Ecker Oct. 20, 1928-Aug. 19, 2018

Mary Frances McDonald Ecker, a well-known resident of Montauk who founded the hamlet’s food pantry, worked as a teacher’s aide, and led the Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2009 as its grand marshal, died on Sunday at East End Hospice’s Kanas Center in Quiogue. She was 89 and had colon cancer.

Known to friends as Fran, Mrs. Ecker was born on Oct. 20, 1928, at home in Montauk’s old fishing village, on what is now Navy Road, to Mary Jane Burke and Charles Leonard McDonald, who were originally from D’Escousse, Nova Scotia. After the family lost their house in the 1938 hurricane, they moved to a Carl Fisher cottage in the Shepherd’s Neck neighborhood. 

During her childhood and teenage years, the family’s living room served as a Sunday School classroom, the basement as a roller-skating rink, the yard as a softball field, and the kitchen as both a late-night and early-morning breakfast spot for friends.

Mrs. Ecker attended the Montauk School and East Hampton High School,  where she worked as a secretary after graduation. On April 18, 1953, she married Edward V. Ecker Sr., who would later become the East Hampton Town supervisor and a town councilman. Within a year of their marriage, the couple welcomed the first of their three children. 

For the next 16 years, Mrs. Ecker was a stay-at-home mother. She read stories, hand-made clothes, became a Cub Scout den mother, and organized beach days in summer and ice-skating and sleigh-riding outings in winter. She set family suppertime at 6 p.m. sharp. Afterward, a kickball game with neighbors would often take place in the yard. She also welcomed her first cousin, a widow with three children, to share her home. 

She became a teacher’s aide at the Montauk School in 1970, where a number of the babies of new faculty members still have the Christmas stockings she knit for them over the years. She was at the school for 24 years, during which time she and Inez Fox, a colleague, agreed that some school families could use help in providing food for their children. The two co-founded the Montauk Food Pantry in 1984, and Mrs. Ecker served as its director until last year.

She was named the Montauk Chamber of Commerce’s Woman of the Year in 2002, and received the same honor from the Montauk Village Association, the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton, and the Rotary Club of East Hampton in 2017. 

She loved knitting, crocheting, and baking, and was a devoted congregant of St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church, where she was a member of the choir and the altar society, and served as a Eucharistic minister. 

Her husband died before her. A son and two daughters, all of Montauk, survive. They are Edward V. Ecker Jr., Cheryl Ecker Bloecker, and Catherine Ecker Flanagan. Three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren also survive. 

The family will receive visitors at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m., and from 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass will be said on Saturday at 11:30 at St. Therese of Lisieux, the Rev. Joseph Fitzgerald officiating. Burial will follow at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Cemetery in East Hampton. 

The family has suggested memorial donations for East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978.