Jack Eschmann, who dedicated his life to helping others, first as a police officer and then through charitable endeavors and church activities, died Wednesday at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola after a two-year battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 81.
One of his sons, Joseph Eschmann, of Wantagh, recalled that his dad had a "memorable" personality. "I think just about everyone he came in contact with remembers him because he was so personable. He did everything he could to help anyone throughout his life."
Eschmann's son traces it back to his father's injury in a plane crash in 1950, when he was 20 years old. The elder Eschmann, a U.S. Army Air Force mechanic, was piloting an old Army trainer plane when it crashed after clipping a tree, according to a newspaper account from that time. He survived with a broken leg and cuts.
"It goes back to the plane crash," Eschmann's son said. "He wanted to do everything for God for the rest of his life."
John Joseph Eschmann, better known as Jack, grew up in St. Albans, Queens, and attended Aviation High School. He met his wife of 58 years, Winifred, in St. Albans. The couple married and soon moved to Bellmore, where they continued to reside.
Eschmann served in the U.S. Air Force from 1947 to 1952, according to his son. From 1955 to 1975, Eschmann was a Nassau County police officer, according to his family. His son said Eschmann had flown a Nassau Police Department helicopter for a few years.
After retiring from the police force, Eschmann founded, through the St. Vincent de Paul Society, two projects: Anthony House, which provided housing for homeless people, and Dismas House, a home for recently released inmates. He was a longtime parishioner of St. Barnabas Church in Bellmore.
Eschmann also traveled to the back-country mountains in the Dominican Republic, helping residents there with such projects as a water purification system, his son said.
At the time of his death, Eschmann was vice president of the Life Center in Deer Park, which, according to news reports, was a pregnancy counseling clinic affiliated with the anti-abortion movement. During a time of heightened protests and vandalism against abortion clinics, including on Long Island, Eschmann told Newsday in 1995 that vandalism went against the spirit of the mainstream anti-abortion movement. "We are totally opposed to actions of this kind," he said.
In addition to his wife and son Joseph, Eschmann is survived by seven other children: daughters Catherine West, of Wiliamsburg, Va.; Marie Price, of Bristow, Va.; Theresa Breintenbach, Irene Eschmann, Elizabeth McCabe, and Susan Bashian, all of Bellmore; and son John Jr., of Warwick, N.Y.; brothers Richard Eschmann, of Merrick, and Charles Eschmann, of Babylon; 27 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
A wake for Eschmann is Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. at C.S. Bartholomew & Son Funeral Home in Bellmore. A funeral Mass is to be offered at 9:45 a.m. Monday at St. Barnabas Church in Bellmore.