Our Mission is: "To continue the over 100-year presence of family heritage, culture and rich human tradition on Isle Royale; to assure the preservation of historic family dwellings; to enhance the experience of NPS staff and Park visitors by serving as authentic links to Isle Royale's rich human history."

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Thomas Eckel 1925-2006
Thomas "Tommy" Eckel Passes Away

Tom Eckel was born into a fishing family on the north shore  of Lake Superior and Isle Royale, and fished commercially his entire life. Tommy was also (my dad) George G. Barnum, III best friend on Isle Royale. They were both born in 1925. Tommy’s parents were Thomas J. and Bertha (Sivertson) Eckel. Tommy grew up spending his summers on Isle Royale. Each summer, the commercial fishing kids, including Tommy, looked forward to the arrival of the cottagers like my dad. The kids formed an Isle Royale “rat pack” in Washington Harbor.  

Tommy and my dad enjoyed playing with and playing tricks on the other kids in the harbor. Tommy told me that he and my dad explored every nook and cranny in the harbor via rowboat. They became accomplished rowers in the two man wooden rowboats that are still in service on Barnum Island. Tommy related a story to me about the  time he and my dad were out rowing when he snapped one of the oars. Naturally, neither boy wanted to tell my stern grandfather (George G. Barnum II). They were both surprised at how well he took it. He went and found the boys another oar and they were on their way. A little while later Tommy snapped another oar. At that point he told my dad to take him home because he wasn’t about to face my grandfather with another broken oar.

It always felt special to talk with Tommy and hear many of his stories about life on Isle Royale. Of course I was especially interested in the stories about my dad, grandfather and great-grandfather Tommy lived a rich and colorful life. We are all proud to be part of his Isle Royale heritage. At our meeting this winter we will honor Tommy by featuring some old videos of him at the island and a recent interview  of Tommy on Isle Royale.

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Tommy and George on Isle Royale


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Last modified: June 28, 2007