How did this extraordinary collection come to be?

HENRY M. EKKER (1939 - 2011)

Henry, more commonly known as Hank, grew up in Sharon, Pennsylvania.  He attended the Sharon schools and then went to the University of Michigan for his under graduate degree and his Law Degree.  His passion for the law was definitely equalled by his passion for sports, and he pursued both interests vigorously.

Hank's collection makes a powerful statement about his love of collecting and love of sports, but it makes a bolder statement about his own creativity.  His approach to the hobby was not just about getting the autographs and shaking hands with famous athletes.  Half of his fun was in selecting appropriate and unique objects to be signed.
Hank shopped for shoes, microphones, toy race cars and fishing lures -- always seeking to find the most interesting items in both familiar and unusual sports.  The collection is one-of-a-kind because it represents such an enormous variety of different sports topped with signatures of the very best in their field.

Meeting and greeting the athletes was great fun for him.  Beginning in the mid-80's, Hank would scour the news for sports shows with his favorite players.  He travelled all around the country, attending signings in Boston, New York, Las Vegas, and everywhere in between.  One of his most memorable times was attending and getting signatures at an exclusive dinner honoring the new inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame .

Most often at shows, he waited his turn in line to meet the players.  He not only got their autographs, but enjoyed shaking their hand and talking "shop" with them.  He told friends that Willie Stargell really enjoyed learning that Hank's youngest daughter, who was born at the same hour Stargell hit the winning home run in the 1979 World Series, was almost named Willimena... that is, until his wife vetoed the idea. 

Soon his collection covered every wall and corner of his law office, so he began hanging memorabilia in the firm's conference rooms and down all of the hallways.  I think his partners wondered if it might even spread into their own private offices.  And it came close!

As a kid he collected pictures of his favorite baseball and football heroes and pasted them in albums.  He followed the Indians, Browns, Pirates and Steelers with special interest for nearby teams.  In high school, he was the announcer for the Sharon High basketball games, and sent newspaper copy with the game details to The Sharon Herald. 

Hank gave 100% to whatever he did.  He became an avid U of M sports fan as he attained his undergraduate and law degree.  As an adult, his college allegiance became evident when he ordered the special license plate “I GO BLUE” for his car.  It fit in very easily in Ann Arbor when his two sons followed in his footsteps and graduated from the Univeristy of Michigan too.   It was not so easy to drive around Columbus, Ohio  during the years that his two daughters attended and graduated from Ohio State.

Upon returning to Sharon after college, he joined the Cusick, Madden, Joyce., Acker & McKay law firm.  The primary emphasis of his law practice was Corporate and Business Law, and Estate Planning and Administration.  He acquired an excelerated degree in Tax Law and handled complex divorce cases too.  In 2001 some of the members of the original firm joined together with another law firm and formed the office of Ekker Kuster McConnell & Epstein LLP. 

Hank was very active in the Shenango Valley, serving on many local boards and presiding over several service organizations.  He was especially dedicated to his position on the F.N.B Corporation Board of Directors where he gave his service for seventeen years. 

Hank was known all around town for his friendly and upbeat demeanor.  He had a distinctive laugh that was easily recognized from across a room by everyone.  His personal interests included traveling around the world and with his usual unbridaled enthusisam, he succeeded in visiting over 45 countries touching every continent on this earth.  Married for forty-six years, he and his wife cherished family life, and took great pleasure in sharing the growth and success of each of their four children and grandchildren.

His enjoyment in showing his autographs to clients, friends, and almost anyone he could drag off the street convinced his family that the best way to honor his memory would be to share his fabulous collection with the public.  The memorabilia was collected with care and love over a period of almost forty years.  The family hopes that you have as much fun seeing it, as Hank had collecting it.