Gas City Police Department (GCPD) Chief Tim Eckstein died Wednesday at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital.
Eckstein, 54, likely died of natural causes, according to the Marion County Coroner. He served as a police officer for approximately 30 years, working at the Marion Police Department before being hired at Gas City in June of 1993.
Gas City Mayor Bill Rock said he has known Eckstein since their sons played coach’s pitch baseball together as kids and he has always been a “valuable part of this community” through the years.
“He was a caring individual. He cared about the community, he cared about the citizens, he cared about keeping people safe,” Rock said. “He was very intelligent, he was very articulate and he would come, I mean he would make you look at things with vision and he will be really, really missed by me because I leaned on him heavily for his input.”
Rock said Eckstein was not afraid to “keep the mayor in line” and offer his input and opinion on various issues.
“Not only was he our police chief, he was a true friend of mine that just cared about the police department and wanted things to go smoothly,” Rock said. “We couldn’t have had a better chief than what Tim was and he will be missed very much so in our community. I can’t explain how much he meant to the citizens here.”
Eckstein loved to fish and being outdoors, and while he always took his duties seriously, Rock said he could always lighten up a room and was known as a jokester. Rock recalled this past April Fool’s Day when Eckstein asked the mayor to tell the city court employees they would be in charge of the tedious work of handling camping and golf cart registrations this year.
“Their eyes were like deer in a headlight. Tim sat back and giggled and laughed about it, and then we finally said April Fools,” Rock said. “He just did that, he was just a great guy to be around. He had a very great personality. He knew when to be serious, he knew when to sit down and talk to people.”
Many local public safety agencies and community members have taken to social media to offer their condolences.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Gas City Police Chief Tim Eckstein today,” Mill Township Fire/Rescue/EMS posted on its Facebook page. “Tim was a superb human being, and a valiant leader.”
“Our sincere condolences and prayers go out to the Gas City Police Department as they mourn the sudden loss of Chief Tim Eckstein,” the Upland Police Department posted on Facebook. “Chief Eckstein served the Gas City and Grant County communities for many years and his impact and influence will be felt for years to come. Tim, thank you for your service.”
Rock said for now GCPD’s two captains will rotate handling the chief’s duties until a new chief is hired.
“I haven’t given that any thought at all just because the fact that we’re going to take our time when making a decision because he’ll be a real hard person to replace and I want to try to find somebody as close to his personality and caring for the community as I can before that would even be given a thought,” Rock said. “Right now we’re going to mourn the loss of him, we’re going to remember him and we’re going to do what it takes to help that family out so that they can adjust to the loss of a great man.”
Rock said information regarding funeral arrangements and other plans the city will make to pay tribute to Eckstein will be forthcoming.
“The only thing I can do is just pray for (his wife) Anita, pray for his family, pray for the community and we’ll continue to move forward although he will be missed and remembered for sure,” Rock said.