‘I was so fortunate to be their dad’: Bend couple start trade scholarship fund in their sons’ names

(Update: Adding video, comments from parents)

Parents of 2019 crash victims want to help other young people find a future in the trades

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – It’s been three years now since Phyllis and Scott Eckstein of Bend had the worst day of their lives, losing their two sons in a tragic crash while they were on the way to work. Now, they want to create a lasting legacy for the sons they cherished by starting a scholarship fund, to help other young Central Oregon men and women train for similar jobs.

The bothers were carpooling in a pickup truck on the icy Powell Butte Highway in March of 2019 and crashed into a large juniper tree. The brothers died at the scene. They were headed off to their construction jobs at Facebook’s Prineville Data Center.

Jake, the 21-year-old, had worked construction at the data center for two years when he helped his 19-year-old brother Josh get a job there.

The brothers loved to be adventurous — hunting, fishing, camping, and enjoying the outdoors, always itching to get out of the house, their parents said Monday.

“Josh did something, and he got in trouble, and he was supposed to go to his room,” Phyllis Eckstein recalled. “Scott and I were sitting on the front porch and we’re like, ‘Gosh we haven’t seen Josh in a while, he hasn’t even come out to get a snack or go to the bathroom.'” The next minute, we saw him on his bicycle with his fishing pole. He had snuck out and had gone down to the river to go fishing.”

The Ecksteins said more than anything, the boys loved hard work, so they felt choosing a trade scholarship reminded them of their boys and was a great way to honor them while helping others achieve their dreams and goals.

“The trades weren’t given enough attention,” Phyllis said. “And it was really important to us to memorialize our boys and let their name go on in this community, because they were a big part of this community.”

“We wanted to give those kids an opportunity — that if you wanted to go to lineman school or HVAC school or become an electrician, we want to help those kids, because they are the future of this town and this community.”

The goal is to award five scholarships a year. They have raised around $34,000 and cannot distribute any distributions by law until they meet the $50,000 mark.

The couple created the Jake and Josh Eckstein Memorial Trade Scholarship fund through the Oregon Community Foundation, which works with donors and volunteers to award grants and scholarships.

The scholarships are for qualified high school students from Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson counties who want to go to trade school.

The parents hope to create a lasting legacy for the two sons they still cherish all those memories of.

“I was so fortunate to be their dad and raise them,” Scott Eckstein said.

“Jake was born first and he was just an easy baby and so fun and happy. I just remember always the smile and the cheerfulness and just the kindness in his heart. And you know, Josh being the second one — he was a little more challenging for me. He was just so fun.

In the flyer announcing the fund, the Ecksteins said, “We feel strongly about giving back to our community and the people who were there for us during the most difficult time in our lives, and ensuring our boys are not forgotten.”

Donations can be made at http://www.oregoncf.org/eckstein-scholarship. You can call the couple with any questions at 541-408-5505 or drop them a note at [email protected]

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