"He built his own TV from a kit," said Carol Anselmo, 63, of Massapequa. "He did everything. He built a riding mower in the '50s out of bicycle parts and an old lawn mower."
Because of his knack for gadgetry, Eichel, who went by "Bert," was known as a handyman in his Wantagh neighborhood, where he lived with his family from 1953 until his death due to kidney failure on Oct. 5. He was 92.
The next year, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps pilots program as an aviation cadet, and flew with the 507th Fighter Group stationed in Majuro, an island off Japan. Eichel called it the best time of his life, Anselmo said.
"He wanted to be a pilot, but he was colorblind," she said, "so he had to memorize the colorblind test so he could get in."
It was during his time in the Army that Eichel met his wife, Mariam MacDermet, in Nebraska, where the plane he was on made an emergency plane landing on its way to the West Coast. They married in 1944, and Eichel was honorably discharged in 1946 at the rank of 1st lieutenant. He was awarded the Air Medal, the Asian Pacific Ribbon, three battle stars and the World War II Victory Medal, his family said.
After coming home, he was a science teacher at a junior high school in Brooklyn. In the 1960s, he earned his doctorate from New York University, and spent much of his career in the Lawrence school district, where he retired as the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in 1978. He spent his latter years traveling with his wife.
"He traveled all over the world to get a good picture," Anselmo said.
Eichel is also survived by his wife, Mariam, 89; his sister, Lenore Meyer, 87, of Port Orange, Fla.; another daughter, Jane Hymiller, 65, of Sabillasville, Md.; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
After a private cremation ceremony, Eichel will be interred at the Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn.