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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

This Man's Letter Writing Campaign Offers Connection For Nursing Home Residents

Courtesy of UC Clermont
Rosie Ecker has long benefited from her dad, Buz Ecker's, passion for letter writing. Now he's on a mission to reach people cut off from friends and family during the pandemic.

Buz Ecker wakes up each day as he has since mid-March, rising before his wife to spend about two hours with pen and paper. The 62-year-old UC Clermont English professor writes five letters per day, seven days per week to people he's never met living in area nursing homes.

"I just say 'Hello, Buz Ecker here,' " he tells WVXU. He writes about his life, where he's from, how long he's been married, and where he went to school. "The letters are filled with incidents that I have - finding a lost dog or getting into an argument with my wife because of something silly on the computer, or some funny incident with a child or growing up or teaching at UC."

He's written more than 300 letters during Ohio's stay-at-home and stay safe orders.

His letters are part of the UC Health Keep Cincy Close campaign, with which his daughter, Rosie Ecker, is involved. The messages are sent to nursing home residents across the region who can't have visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Letter writing isn't new for Ecker. He writes his children daily and cherishes the memory of his mother sending him handwritten missives as a young teenager at summer camp and how special it felt.

The letters are penned in longhand - "Oh, god no!" he cries with disgust when asked if he types them out - on regular paper and nondescript envelopes. He mails a package of letters daily.

"A good thing about a letter is that you can touch the letter and whoever sent the letter also touched it. That means a lot to me."

His words are touching others. Recipients say they enjoy hearing from Ecker and some even write him back. Residents at Beechwood Home in Hyde Park like reading Ecker's missives so much the staff now reads them regularly over the intercom.

Ecker plans to continue writing his daily letters for as long as the nursing homes are "hunkered down" or longer if wanted or needed. He's happy to do it.

"I feel very fortunate that I'm still able to bring joy into peoples' lives," he says. "It doesn't take five letters a day, seven days a week to bring joy into somebody's life. You could write one letter one day a week and it would still bring joy into somebody's life."

Ecker wants others to join him in putting pen to paper. It's the reason, he says, he agreed to talk to WVXU.

"I want more people to write letters; that would bring more joy to these people. They have nothing to do but sit in their room all day. They have to eat staggered meals because they have to remain six feet apart. They can't talk to anybody... (but) they can touch the letter that I touched. ... It means a lot for them and it means a lot to me to send them a letter."

Many area nursing homes are accepting and encouraging letters from the community to be shared with their residents. Ecker's letters are sent via the Keep Cincy Close campaign but information about how to send letters to other locations can usually be found on a facility's website.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.