Joseph Webster Eckert

February 13, 2019

Joseph Webster Eckert (1931-2019)

Joseph W. Eckert, Professor emeritus of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Riverside, passed away peacefully at his home at the Carriage Club in Charlotte, NC on Feb. 13, with his family at his side.

Dr. Eckert was born on March 27, 1931 in St. Louis, MO and moved to Los Angeles, CA with his family in 1941. He earned his B.S. at the University of California, Los Angeles, his M.S. at Rutgers University and his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis.  He received his first appointment at Riverside in 1957, where he began his long career at the University of California, retiring in 2001.

He served in the US Army Chemical Corp. at Camp Detrick MD from 1953-1955.

Dr. Eckert was an international authority on the post-harvest diseases of fresh fruits and vegetables. In the early 1980s he was on the frontlines of the war against microscopic fungi and bacteria that had evolved multiple resistances to then current chemical treatments and threatened significant economic loss on a global basis to the agricultural industry.  Dr. Eckert also recognized that reducing postharvest waste was one of the most feasible yet least emphasized solutions to overcoming worldwide hunger. He believed that a common sense approach with a “reemphasis on rational, scientific principles of pest control, alternating chemical treatments rather than mixing them, practicing general sanitation, and isolating diseased fruit would go a long way toward resolving the resistance problem.”

His pioneering research and its broad application led to ongoing consultancies with Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer among many other public and private institutions. He was a Fellow of The American Phytopathological Society and also had longstanding and active memberships in the American Chemical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Society of Plant Pathology, and the International Society of Citriculture.

 Over the course of his five-decade career he produced 180 publications and held two far-reaching patents. He received many national and international awards for his critical contributions to the field. His advice was sought after from many parts of the world and he taught on the subject of post-harvest problems and solutions throughout all of Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, China, India, Australia and much of Southeast Asia. An extension of his legacy is his many graduate students now practicing around the globe.

Dr. Eckert’s international career was also a part of the lives of his family members, who often traveled with him (including during his year-long position as a Fulbright Research Scholar in the Netherlands) and welcomed a regular stream of visitors from many lands to their home. He was an exuberant raconteur, especially regarding his wide, constant and ambitious travel over six continents. He was a voracious reader of the news from all perspectives. He came to identify with no political party, held strong informed positions, and had an incisive wit. He was a vocal critic of injustice and oppression and was a consistent advocate for human rights. He deeply appreciated meeting people where they lived and learning directly about their cultures through his own experience and personal relationships.

Joseph is survived by his wife of 62 years, Nancy Ann (Muenchow) Eckert, whom he met while he was a graduate student at UC Davis. In addition to Nancy he is survived by his daughters Patricia Eckert Boyer and her husband John, daughter Pamela Eckert Scarafoni and her husband Dean, and Joseph and Nancy’s grandchildren Ryan Boyer and his wife Marni, William Boyer, Daniel Scarafoni, his wife Fan, and Benjamin Scarafoni. He is survived by his brother Richard Edgar Eckert of Reno, NV. He was predeceased by his parents and by his son John Robert Eckert.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to Veterans Bridge Home, 2200 East 7th Street, Charlotte, NC 28204 or to another veterans group of your choice.

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204; (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at



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