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Keeping Cincy Close

UC Clermont instructor leads letter-writing campaign to local nursing homes

Since March, UC Clermont College English Instructor James “Buz” Ecker has written more than 200 letters — and counting — to local nursing home residents under quarantine.

His effort is part of UC Health’s Keep Cincy Close campaign, which encourages people to get involved by penning letters of “hope and happiness” for Greater Cincinnati nursing home residents who are not allowed visitors during Ohio’s Stay-at-Home and Stay Safe orders.

Ecker’s favorite topic? Anything that makes his readers laugh.

“I write about trying to stay married; that I wonder if having the virus would be better than being cooped up all day with my wife; that one of the dogs escaped; an April 1st joke; telling my children that they are free to ask any question they want, then when they do, sending them to their mother,” Ecker said. “I have thousands of stories, all humorous.”

The missives have been sent to and shared in long-term care facilities throughout the city. At Beechwood Home in Hyde Park, residents have enjoyed the more than 50 letters from Ecker so much that staff is now reading them regularly over the intercom.

Letter writing is nothing new to Ecker. He has been writing to his children, grandchildren and close friends for years. One daughter has saved more than 1,000 of his letters. Another of his favorite recipients, youngest daughter Rosie Ecker, says she first started receiving letters from her dad when she went away to summer camp.

“My dad's letters have always meant so much to me because they are devotions of his love,” Rosie said. “They are his way of expressing himself, and I am happy to be on the receiving end, which I have been since the 4th grade at my first sleep-away camp.”

Rosie, who works as a UC Health marketing consultant, created the website for the Keep Cincy Close campaign

“Keep Cincy Close was put in place in an effort to bring joy, happiness and social connection to those feeling the effects of visitor restrictions,” Rosie said. “And while these letters bring joy to nursing home residents, they have a rewarding effect on the writer as well. The day my dad received his first letter back from a nursing home completely turned his outlook around, and hope filled his voice when he called to tell me.”

Ecker now starts each day with a new routine — penning a letter for his eager audience. He is hopeful the effort will continue to grow and that others around the city will join him.

“It's the right thing to do, writing a letter to someone who can't leave his or her room,” Ecker says.

Featured image at top: Rosie and Buz Ecker. Photo/Provided