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Emery Lee Eckel

Funeral services for Emery Lee Eckel, 95, of Athens, TX, formerly of Odessa will be held at 6:00 P.M., Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at the Hannigan Smith Funeral Home of Athens. Interment will be held at 2:00 P.M. Friday, November 29, 2019 at Liberty Cemetery in Liberty, Kansas.


Emery Lee Eckel was born April 5, 1924, in Clay County, Illinois the son of Charles and Iva Murray Eckel.  In 1926 Charles Eckel died and in 1928 Iva Eckel married Oliver Allen. From a young age, Emery learned the value of hard work from Mr. Allen as he was a sharecrop farmer. Emery started working the land with a team of horses at the age of 8 under Mr. Allen’s supervision where farm responsibilities came before schoolwork. Emery finished the 7th grade and part of his 8th grade education, but Mr. Allen’s priority was having enough help to do the farming, not his children having a formal education. He taught them to do an honest day’s physical work.


In early 1940, he went to work for Olsen Drilling Company in Iola, Illinois as a roughneck for 98 cents an hour. His job as a floor hand included working the lead tong. He also worked for 2 years for various drilling contractors in this area as a floor hand. From 1944 to 1950 Emery worked as a driller or tool pusher for several drilling companies in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas.


From 1951 to 1954 he began working for casing crews in Odessa Texas, which ran the casing into the well after drilling was completed. They used both manual rig tons and an endless spinning chain to screw the casing together.


In 1954 Emery resigned and formed his own casing company where his crews worked out of North Dakota, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas.


In the early 1950s the oil companies wanted a uniform torque applied to each joint of casing. This required a power tong with a torque gauge. Several companies began building hydraulic tongs but they were not dependable.


In 1958, Emery moved back to Odessa and founded Eckel Manufacturing Company, Inc. As operating costs-per-foot of drilling ballooned to staggering proportions, so likewise the need for fast, safe, efficient hydraulic power tongs became necessary. Emery saw it all coming and due to his previous work he had a particularly good vantage point. He had helped others specify and purchase hydraulic tongs, bought his own power tongs, trained his own casing crews, and kept the machinery running. The hydraulic power tongs of that era left a lot to be desired as they were prone to slip, wobble, and consequently damaged costly pipe. Some power trains were chain-driven, and these chains often snapped or snagged. Torque ratings were diminished by slipping clutches or "fading power" in their motors. While some models simply couldn't deliver the required torque, other power tongs packed enough power to "self-destruct" a flimsy tong body if an over-zealous crew member applied full throttle. Emery Eckel knew power tongs had to be better. He set about improving them, bought machine-tool time and rented unused corners of various shops around Odessa. He hired good machinist and welders when he could afford them and learned to do their jobs when he couldn't. And one way or another, he produced tongs--new tongs with new ideas. Deficiencies in his tongs were ironed out, and soon Emery's casing tongs were in demand. As more profits came in, Emery reinvested the profits into production facilities. These new hydraulic tongs evolved into a prototype that embodies most the advantages still found in today's Eckel tongs. Other casing crews began asking for these different tongs, and Eckel produced them. Since 1958, the plant has doubled and redoubled in size several times. "Anywhere in the world" aptly describes the market for Eckel tongs today.

Emery Eckel and Eckel Manufacturing have been awarded numerous State, National and International Awards and is known World-wide as the innovator of the Hydraulic Power Tong. 


Emery’s greatest accomplishment in life was the impact he had on the people that worked with him, worked for him, loved him and were inspired by him. Emery Eckel was a loving and generous husband, father, grandfather and spent his existence changing lives.


Emery was preceded in death by his parents, sister Edna Eckel Brady, four brothers Delbert, Donnie, Gerald, and Adrian Allen, son Timothy Dale Eckel and daughter Margie Stuemke.


He is survived by his loving wife Judy Eckel of Athens, TX; six children, Jeanne and Vince Claps (three grandchildren) of Summerfield, FL, Linda Pippin (two grandchildren) of Kingman, AZ, Sandra Tipsword (three grandchildren) of Summerfield, FL, Terry Eckel (four grandchildren Shawn, Justin, Jeremy Eckel and Britney Presnall), Jamie Traxson and Curtis Payne of Blanchard, OK, Will and Shannon Traxson (four grandchildren Jadeyn, MaKayle, Torryn, and Kensley Traxson) of Athens, Tx; 3 grandsons Cody, Travis and Chris Eckel; numerous great grandchildren; one son-in-law Dale Stuemke (two grandchildren Penny Miller and Amy Danks) of Altamont, Il; one sister Wilma and Jim Burton of Tucson, AZ, brothers and sisters in law, Pat and Lee Lackey, Twyla Baldwin, Tim and Nancy Lackey, Rebecca and Michael Whalen, and Mick Lackey; numerous very special nieces and nephews; and stepdaughters Valerie and Guy Andrews and Cindy and Jon Herrington.


The family is eternally grateful for his favorite, loving Doctor Karah Coker, caretakers Cynthia Chapman, Sue Starr, Roberta Alaniz, and Alicia McLaughlin.


Honorary pallbearers will be Kenneth Hurst, Ray Dishaw, Marion Masters, Andy Heft, Dr. Matthew Rudolph, Phil Tucker, Trevor Fitzgerald, and Patrick Woodard.


Visitation will be held from 4 – 6:00 pm, Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at Hannigan Smith Funeral Home in Athens, TX.


Arrangements were entrusted to Hannigan Smith Funeral Home.


David W. Barnes Funeral Home of Coffeyville is assisting with local arrangements.

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