The Story Behind the ECHO Bell
My name is Ruth Skillings and I am a former employee of Eastern Connecticut Hematology Oncology (ECHO). I have witnessed firsthand the compassion and integrity of all my co-workers. In April 2016, I retired after working at ECHO for 30 years. The ECHO bell was dedicated in memory of my father, Earl F. Skillings,(Fred) to ECHO on January 31st, 2016. He loved the ocean and, as a young man, made his living lobstering and clamming in Pine Point, Maine. He enlisted as a Seaman 1stClass in the Navy on April 20th, 1943 and was honorably discharged February 28th, 1946. He then re-enlisted in the Navy reserves and was again honorably discharged June 5th, 1951. Fred was part of the original crew and a plank owner of the USS Midway, which was commissioned September 10th, 1945.
He became a patient of Dr. Mandeep Dhami in February 2006 and was treated until June 2009. As patients reach the milestone in completing their last chemotherapy treatments, they ring the ECHO bell. This is done in celebration of the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. The office staff also joins in with the celebration. My father never got to ring the ECHO bell, but I am sure the sound of it ringing brings a smile to his face every time.
Thank you to the following for your efforts with the bell:
- S. John Grillo and Fred’s daughters, Ruby and Ruth Skillings, whose joint efforts created the ECHO poem
- Jon Skillings, Fred’s son, for donating a piece of anchor rope from Fred’s lobster boat
- Jeffrey Neault, Fred’s grandson, for creating the wooden plaque that brought the project to life
- Boatswain’s Mate 1stClass Kahn, from port operations at the naval submarinebase in Groton, Connecticut, for attaching the rope to the bell with special Navy braiding
- Thayer’s Marine Inc. in Norwich, Connecticut, for helping choose the genuine polished brass Navy bell
- Grader Trophy and Awards, for engraving the brass plate with the poem
- A brass Navy button from Earl’s US Navy uniform was added as a unique way to remember his service to our great country and to celebrate his journey in life