The ledger book that Carol Eckelkamp used in her 20 years as Franklin County’s public administrator is tattered.
She recently retired from the office, but she keeps the optimistic attitude that made her successful.
Eckelkamp, a lifelong Union resident, said she will miss the clients that she served and came to know in the position.
Her job was far from dull because she helped people in hard situations.
Mental illness, old age and childhood abuse afflicted her clients. She handled their finances to make sure they had housing and medical care.
“It’s really sad for me to leave now because they know me,” she said in an interview with The Missourian. “I’m like an extended family member.”
But she decided not to run for the office again, saying there comes a time to retire.
Eckelkamp was the force that kept troubled people from falling into ruin.
“I’ve changed their lives,” she said, noting that she had clients ranging in age from 15 to around 93.
Sometimes it could be scary, such as the time she was face to face with a physically large client who grabbed her arm. She had brought him a present, and she persuaded him to release her by telling him that there was something in the package that he would enjoy.
One of her clients, who was abused as a child, got his life back together and called her on Mother’s Day because he was a new father.
Another client hoarded so badly that the bedrooms were inaccessible.
At times, she had more than 100 clients at once. And she was committed to knowing them on a personal level, rather than just paying their bills.
“I love the people I serve,” she said, adding, “You have to figure out the person.”
She took them presents for Christmas and birthdays.
“I find out what they like,” she said. “If they’re diabetic, I get them sugar-free candy.”
She strived to give her clients and their families a “ray of hope,” she said.
Her clients showed their appreciation by sending her homemade cards expressing love.
The Franklin County Probate Court appoints the public administrator to oversee the affairs of people who cannot care for themselves.
Sometimes Eckelkamp was the “bad guy” since she served as the third party between a client and the family.
“I’ve been called the money hog,” she said.
Despite the name calling, she maintained her compassion for her clients.
She could be empathetic for people who have lost much in life, because she never met her dad.
He died in World War II when she was 10 days old, and he never got the letter that she was born.
Also, her stepfather had Alzheimer’s, and she saw what it did to him.
She remembers her grandmother warning her to stay away from a mean family member. But Eckelkamp was unafraid and sat with the person with no problems.
That is the part of Eckelkamp that does not mind confronting what others might avoid and giving people chances.
“I just think it’s my whole character,” she said.