George Eugene Eckel
George Eugene Eckel was born March 9, 1922 in Leon, Kansas, one of seven, two sisters and four brothers. Mr. Eckel joined the US Navy’s V-7 program. Which, beginning in 1940, V-7 candidates, who were college juniors and seniors, were required to enlist in the Naval Reserve. Following a one-month indoctrination course as apprentice seaman, V-7s attended a three-month course in the midshipmen's school. Upon completion of the program, candidates were awarded an ensign's commission and placed in active status. The V-7 program allowed Ensign Eckel to secure his degree at Southwestern College, in Winfield, Kansas, before joining active service. George served in active duty in the US Navy during World War II from 1943, until he was discharged in December of 1946.
In August, 1943, he went to Northwestern University for midshipman training, graduated in December, 1943, and was commissioned Ensign. He then entered the amphibious Navy where he spent all of his Navy life. His huge amphibious LST carried troops and tanks across the English Channel during D-Day. After making 45 trips across the channel he returned to the U.S. in 1944 and went to a training command school in Virginia. He was promoted to Lieutenant and put in command of SST #528 for eight months. These eight months were spent in and about the South Pacific making one complete trip to New Zealand.
In 1947, George moved to San Diego where he worked as a building contractor and land developer. Eckel built custom homes, office and commercial buildings. As a land developer, George subdivided many properties in the La Mesa-Mount Helix area. He developed the entire south slope of Mount Helix in three separate phases.
He married Shirley Ann Licht on October 8, 1949, and had three children, Mark Charles (also a building contractor), Trent Eugene and Marla Ann.
George was a member of the Building Contractors Assoc., serving on the Economic Council of National Builders and the Interfaith Housing Foundation. George took the Gold Nugget Award in the largest home category. The contest was open to builders in 13 Western States including Alaska and Hawaii. He was selected by the American Wood Council and Lumberman's Assoc. to build the Wood Design 1970 "Idea Home."
George was a past-President of the Lions Club of La Mesa and a member for 53 years. He served as a board member for the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce and on the City Arbitration Committee. He won the La Mesa Beautiful Award in the commercial category for his office complexes on Baltimore Drive. He was one of the founders of Grossmont Bank and First La Mesa Bank.
George Eckel was Leonard Smith's brother-in-law. Eckel did not design most of the homes he built although he did design a few. He built homes that Leonard Smith designed and for many other local architects and designers. In the 1950s Eckel and Smith would buy land from Colonel Fletcher; Leonard would typically design the ‘classic Mt Helix ranch’ homes; and George would build them. Once complete, Leonard would sell them – as almost always the projects were on spec.
Partial List of Projects
Walter and Jane Chapman Residence (1958)
Provate Residence (1962)