Cover photo for James Robert Eckels Sr.'s Obituary
James Robert Eckels Sr. Profile Photo
1955 James 2024

James Robert Eckels Sr.

November 26, 1955 — February 25, 2024

James “Jamie” Robert Eckels, Sr., 68, of Coulters, PA, passed away in his home, Sunday, February 25, 2024. Born November 26, 1955 in McKeesport, PA, he was married to Mary (Maly) Eckels in 1981. Jamie is survived by his wife, Mary, brothers, John (Kathy) and Mark (Colleen), children, J.J.(Chelsea), Rachele (Bryan) Kelly, and Luke, his grandchildren, Killian (4), Islay (2), Koughan (1), Ronan (1), MacKenzie (Due April 2024) and beloved granddogs, Hula and Storm. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Samantha Ann Eckels, and parents Ann (Wertenbach) Eckels and George “Blair” Eckels of McKeesport, PA.

After graduating from Serra Catholic High School in 1973, Jamie attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls as a student athlete for the Falcons Football team, where he met his future bride Mary Maly, a fellow Phys. Ed & Health Major and standout gymnast. Upon graduating, Jamie’s pursuit of a teaching and coaching career included stops in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Texas, where he won a conference title at his alma mater, saw a college close, helped Boys Town, Nebraska reach the state semifinals, and coached in the Big 30 before settling in his hometown of McKeesport, PA. He was a man of the people, knowing someone just about everywhere he went. The famed Eddie Robinson once walked up to him at the airport to strike up a conversation after meeting him years before at the National Clinic.

Jamie’s coaching and teaching career at McKeesport High School began in the 80’s, alongside George Smith and Ivan Hampton, where he worked tirelessly in the offseason with players year round. He proudly poured everything he had into serving families, students, and players of McKeesport for 30+ years. After bringing the triple option offense to the Tigers in the early 90’s, the Tigers won nearly 250 games, 10 conference titles, multiple state championships, and wins over legendary coaches such as George Novak, Chris Haering, Terry Totten, Jim Render, Bob Palko and Bill Cherpak. December 10, 2005 was one of his proudest days. His nephew Shane won a state title with South Park High School and his sons JJ (player) and Luke (waterboy) alongside cheerleaders Chelsea (daughter in law), Rachele (daughter) and Mary won a title with the Tigers later that evening in Hershey, PA.

Outside of being a humble, hardworking family man and coach, “Coach Ecks” enjoyed a pinch of Cope and an Iron City while relaxing at home or on his boat. Often armed with either a Dr. Pepper, IC Light or the occasional caramel moonshine in his coffee, Jamie was always one to tell a heck of a joke or story after a few cold ones. Pap loved spending his time entertaining friends and grandchildren, cooking pizza, popcorn, or BBQ, having bonfires, golfing, splitting wood or dumping the trucks for Steel City Arborist. He even went full on mad scientist mode, making biodiesel for all his cars, where you could smell the aroma of french fries before you would see or hear him cruising down the street to some Bob Segar or the Allman Brothers.

Family and friends will gather at Strifflers of White Oak Cremation and Mortuary Services, Inc., 1100 Lincoln Way, White Oak, PA 15131 (Sue Striffler Galaski, supervisor, 412-678-6177) on Thursday, February 29, 2024 from 2:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.

A celebration of life will be on Friday, March 1, 2024 from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at the Coulter Volunteer Fire Hall, 414 Railroad Street, Coulters, PA 15028.

To share a memory or condolence, please visit

Should friends desire, please consider donating to the Jamie Eckels Scholarship fund for future Tigers.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Thursday, February 29, 2024

2:00 - 8:00 pm (Eastern time)

Strifflers of White Oak Cremation & Mortuary Services, Inc.

1100 Lincoln Way, White Oak, PA 15131

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Celebration of Life

Friday, March 1, 2024

3:00 - 6:00 pm (Eastern time)

Coulter Volunteer Fire Company

414 Railroad St, PA 15028

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