Hundreds attend Eschbacher memorial service

PARKERSBURG – Hundreds of people gathered in the Parkersburg South High School auditorium Tuesday night to bid farewell to Principal Tom Eschbacher, who passed away last Friday.

Eschbacher, 51, died after a long battle with brain cancer. He had served PSHS as its principal for the past 13 years, and had touched the lives of many of those who gathered in the packed auditorium on Tuesday evening.

The auditorium, which seats 1,040 people, was full during the service, and the service was broadcast into the nearby cafeteria for those who could not make it inside the auditorium.

During the two-hour-long service, many of Eschbacher’s friends spoke of joyful times they had with him.

Former Parkersburg South Principal Tim Swarr was the first of four speakers at the memorial service. Swarr set the tone for the evening by telling humorous stories of Eschbacher’s career.

Swarr mentioned how he had played a role in hiring Eschbacher for all five of the positions he served in Wood County Schools. He reviewed how Eschbacher began as a band director at Washington Junior High School in 1984, then moved on to PSHS band director, then PSHS assistant principal, then transitioned to principal at Blennerhassett Middle School, and finally became PSHS principal 13 years ago, Swarr said.

“There’s been a tremendous void created here at Parkersburg South, and I pray we can get it filled,” Swarr said of Eschbacher’s passing.

Superintendent of Wood County Schools John Flint spoke of his friendship with Eschbacher, focusing on how the two were often compared to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in their adventures.

Through stories of football games and graduations, those gathered shared many laughs as Flint reviewed the antics he used to get into with Eschbacher.

“Rest well, my friend, until we meet again,” Flint said.

Richard Board, former Parkersburg South teacher and friend of Eschbacher, told of how he met Eschbacher when he was in the eighth grade band class Board taught.

Board’s tales of Eschbacher’s life concentrated on his musical career, telling stories of difficult pieces and musical performances that Eschbacher impressed people with repeatedly. His stories also focused on the connections he made with students at Parkersburg South

“Deep down inside, he never grew up,” Board said of Eschbacher. “He was one of them (the students), and they knew it,” Board said.

Tim McCartney, interim principal at PSHS, was the final prepared speaker of the evening. McCartney spoke of the casual way that Eschbacher always seemed to handle situations.

Speaking of the time when President George W. Bush visited PSHS in 2004, McCartney said, “There (Eschbacher) was, talking to the most powerful man in the world like it was no big deal.”

The audience was given a chance to speak during the memorial service, and several members of the community did so.

Former students spoke fondly of how Eschbacher had changed their lives. Larry “Mad Max” Maxwell spoke for several minutes about what Eschbacher meant for the school.

It was announced that the home side bleachers at Erickson All-Sports Facility will be named in honor of Eschbacher during Tuesday’s memorial service.

Marsha Parsons from the Smoot Theatre Band performed “Till the Storm Passes By” on the piano and sang in Eschbacher’s memory during the memorial service.

The PSHS Symphonic Band performed the national anthem, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “It Is Well With My Soul.”

The Parkersburg High School A Cappella Choir attended the ceremony, singing “Flower of Beauty” and “My Home Among The Hills.”