Cover photo for Philip Linner Eckman's Obituary
Philip Linner Eckman Profile Photo
1933 Philip 2023

Philip Linner Eckman

June 20, 1933 — October 29, 2023


Phil Eckman, age 90 of Duluth, MN died exactly as he hoped, with his wife Julie, children Phil and Brita by his side at the place he loved most, his home known dearly as “the Cabin in the Woods”. Phil lived life to the fullest and touched the lives of many through his caring and friendly presence. Although he held many impressive titles like Surgeon, President and CEO, the roles he valued most were: being Julie’s husband of 59 years; Phil, Brita, and Inger’s father; and Ellie, Lexie, and Julienne’s grandfather, known lovingly as their “Bugga”.

Phil was born in Duluth on June 20, 1933 at St. Mary’s Hospital to loving parents Phil and Hildur Eckman, who inspired his admiration for the outdoors, music, and travel. He grew up on the shore of Lake Superior. He would later return to the Lake and move his own family into his childhood home on London Road in 1976. He grew up with two younger sisters, Lin and Louise, as well as an extended clan of Eckman and Boman cousins. He became an Eagle Scout, taught himself how to sail and graduated as the Salutatorian from the very first class of Duluth East High School in 1951.

He followed his father, grandfather and great-grandfather to attend Gustavus Adolphus College. He went on to medical school at the University of Minnesota. Phil, an avid skier, secured an Internship in the mountains at Denver General. He loved to tell the story how every dollar he earned went toward lift tickets at Loveland or Aspen. Phil then returned to Minnesota to complete his residency in General Surgery at the Mayo Clinic. His time at the Mayo Clinic shaped his professional career and, more importantly, his personal life. Scrubbing for surgery, he met and fell in love with student nurse and future wife Julie Sherman. They were married in 1964. Phil joined the Sherman family, forming close, loving friendships with Julie’s brother, sisters and their husbands.

Phil and Julie settled in Duluth to begin their lives together. He joined the Duluth Clinic as a General Surgeon where he would go on to positively touch the lives of many families in the region. He particularly enjoyed taking care of children through his pediatric surgery practice. His teamwork and congenial manner buoyed his leadership within the Clinic. Phil was elected as the President of the Duluth Clinic where he led the organization for many years through its successful merger with St. Mary’s Hospital and the eventual creation of Essentia Health.

Throughout his demanding professional life, Phil managed a good work-life balance, finding time for family, friends and fun. He adored his dear wife, Julie. They raised three children, Phil, Brita, and Inger, spending precious time sailing Lake Superior aboard Cold Duck, Sirius and T’ien. The highlight of every summer was their family time together sailing the Apostle Islands and beyond, often as a fleet with their sailing friends, the Johnson and Ryan families. Phil also loved the thrill of sailboat racing. He proudly competed in three Trans Superior International Yacht Races, and in 1993, he won the coveted Madeline Island Cup. In the winter, Phil shared his passion for skiing with the family as they spent countless weekends at Mont du Lac, Spirit Mountain, and Lutsen. Phil would head west every year to the mountains of Colorado and Montana for even more adventure, skiing black diamonds and moguls well into his 70s.

Phil’s life was forever changed in 1986 when his daughter Inger died in a tragic ski racing accident. The spirit of Inger stayed close to him throughout the rest of his life.

While he was admittedly never a great shot, he enjoyed hunting grouse, ducks, and pheasants. Trips to South Dakota and Canada with his son Phil, family friends Chuck Sherman and Andy Myers, along with many others, provided wonderful stories and camaraderie. Phil loved his faithful yellow lab, Jack. In fact, he loved him so much, when Jack died, Phil named his next yellow lab Jack as well. Jack 1 and 2 were at his side for more than 20 years.

Throughout his life, Phil loved being involved in the community, always a reliable volunteer and leader. He made an impact everywhere he went. Highlights here include: playing French Horn in the Twin Ports Wind Orchestra, serving as President at First Lutheran Church, reading to the blind at the Lighthouse for the Blind. For many years, he would bring Jack 1 and 2 to The Benedictine Living Community, bringing smiles and laughter to its residents. For 17 years, he served on the Minnesota Crime Reparations Board, where he studied the facts, learned the law, and cared deeply for the victims. A voracious reader, Phil looked forward to his monthly book club meetings, where a diverse group of smart, critical thinking men took on challenging books and engaged in rigorous discussion.

Phil retired in 1997, and with that, he and Julie seized the opportunity to live their dream. They moved out of the city and into the woods. They built their dream home on a small private lake along the Cloquet River, among the White and Norway Pines, Balsam Firs, Aspen and White Birches. Year-round and every day, Phil caringly fed the chickadees, blue jays, and even a few red squirrels. For the next 26 years, Phil stayed healthy chopping wood, building fires, plowing snow, clearing trails, cross country skiing, kayaking, swimming in the lake, and hosting regular guests at the Cabin in the Woods.

Phil is survived by his beloved wife Julie, children Brita, Phil and his wife Vera, and grandchildren Ellie, Lexie, and Julienne. He is preceded in death by his daughter, parents, and his sisters. A special thank you to Essentia Hospice, Guy and Nancy Smith, and “our angels in the woods”, Brian, Anna, Sage and Evrin McCabe.

Funeral service at 11:00 am, November 18th with visitation beginning at 10:00 am at First Lutheran Church 1100 East Superior Street.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Essentia Health Foundation and Gustavus Adolphus College.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Philip Linner Eckman, please visit our flower store.

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Saturday, November 18, 2023

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

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Memorial Service

Saturday, November 18, 2023

11:00 - 11:45 am (Central time)

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