Hope Remains

Gail and Dr. Ed Eichler's story of founding Clay's Golf and Guitars.

Hope is a word that carries heavy emotions and expectations. For Gail and Dr. Ed Eichler, hope is a feeling of trust that comes from their steadfast faith in God. This is evidenced by the scripture from Philippians 4:13 which is displayed front and center on a table in their living room. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.” The same scripture appears again, carefully arranged near the sink in their kitchen, and serves as a gentle daily reminder and source of encouragement.

When asked how they met, the Eichlers answered in unison. “We met in a hurricane!” Dr. Eichler, a resident at the time, was working in the Cardiac Care Unit of John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, Texas, and Gail was a nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. The details they shared about the night they worked during Hurricane Alicia are flabbergasting. One couldn’t help but be in awe! They knew that if they could work together through the catastrophe they endured that night, surely they could make it through anything!

The Eichlers are as laid back, down to earth, and fun-loving as they come. Their hearts are warm and generous and, as Gail says, they are “pretty much an open book.” Like in most books, some chapters of the Eichler’s story have been great! However, they entered a devastating chapter in 2014 when they lost their youngest son, Clay, who was only 23 years old.

This bronze of Clay as a child sits where he played along the creek in the Eichler’s backyard.

Clay was a blue-eyed, handsome, easy-going guy who Gail describes as a “good ole boy.” “He was fun!” He loved country music and was a huge Jason Boland fan. Clay attended Pleasant Grove High School and Texas A&M University in College Station, where he graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Agronomy. Clay was passionate about his friends and family and was a great listener. “He had a soft heart,” says Dr. Eichler.

Edward, Gail, Ed and Clay Eichler in a family portrait from 1993.

With each day we have to find ways to move forward, as difficult as it may be. Gail recalls, “The weekend after Clay’s passing, a friend of ours stopped by to give me this book called Jesus Calling, and said I must read it. I did, every day for at least the first three years.” Everyone deals with grief in their own way, but for this couple, the strength to overcome came from their faith. It is what continues to get them through each new chapter of their lives. A helpful passage from the January 31 entry of Jesus Calling is from Psalm 28:7. It reads, “I am your strength and shield. I plan out each day and have it ready for you, long before you arise from bed. I also provide the strength you need each step of the way.” “In today’s culture it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day events, social media forums, and the ‘not-so-great’ chapters of our lives.” Gail believes, “when you take it off of you and give it to Him, it gives you such a different and right perspective.”

Edward, Ed, Gail and Clay cheering on the Houston Texans at a game in 2012.

Clay and his older brother Edward share the same birthday; to celebrate, they liked to have a crawfish boil. A year after Clay’s passing, his friends asked Gail and Dr. Eichler to attend a crawfish boil in celebration of Clay, where everyone enjoyed their time together, reminiscing about the one they had all adored so much. There’s nothing like being around a group of loving and uplifting individuals to lift your spirits and inspire your soul. Clay’s friends did that for the Eichlers. Because the gathering was such an inspiration, what began as a fun memorial “pasture party,” grew into plans for a meaningful fundraiser in Clay’s honor. The Eichlers knew they wanted to host an event where Clay would be remembered, and the community could benefit from funds raised through the celebration of his life.

The Clay Eichler Memorial fund was created in 2014, and Clay’s Golf and Guitars Inaugural Fundraiser was held at Texas A&M University-Texarkana on May 30, 2015. All profits benefit worthy local organizations, and the recipients are chosen by a dedicated board. It takes over 50 volunteers to put this event together and participants travel in from as far as Seattle, Washington. Through the Clay Eichler Memorial Fund, the Eichlers have donated $725,000 to the following Texarkana organizations in the last five years: TAMU-T, Ark-La-Tex 100 Club, and The Salvation Army—Boys and Girls Club. This year’s benefactor will be the Caddo Area Council, Boy Scouts of America—ScoutReach program. The Eichlers truly love Texarkana and the people that make up this community. They believe it is important to give back as much as they can because, as Gail says, “Texarkana has given so much to us.”

Often, amid change or tragedy, we look to those who will offer a sense of comfort with a side of empathy or compassion. It typically takes a special person who can see us in our most vulnerable state and be willing to ride the emotional wave with us. In the fall of 2014, a bereavement group was formed to offer emotional support to parents like the Eichlers, and grandparents who have lost children or grandchildren. This group, Hope Remains, meets at 6 p.m., at the Central Christian Church at 903 Walnut Street in Texarkana, TX, on the second Tuesday of each month. This group has become very important to Gail. “I’m not one to mourn outwardly, but we love this group! Anyone is welcome to attend.”

Ed and Gail enjoying their backyard.

Two weeks after Clay’s death, Gail received a phone call from Gerda Weismann, a Holocaust survivor, who told her, “Never let grief consume you and never waste the pain.” This advice from Mrs. Weismann, who survived the deaths of her entire family, deeply affected the Eichlers. They decided to follow her advice. Despite the difficult circumstances, their souls remain filled with the hope of Philippians 4:13. That hope radiates love and light to all they touch. As they continue to write the new chapters of their story, they have insured that Clay’s legacy is secure. In his honor, they have turned their heartache into hope, and that hope into actions that greatly benefit and bless the community of Texarkana. 

Clay’s Golf and Guitars

Gail and Dr. Ed Eichler started the Clay Eichler Memorial Fund in 2014 following the untimely loss of their son Clay. Each year, the Clay Eichler Memorial Fund raises money through an annual event, “Clay’s Golf and Guitars,” with all profits benefiting worthy local organizations needing financial assistance. The recipients of these funds raised by this event are chosen by the board on a rotating basis.

The 2020 recipient is the Caddo Area Council Boy Scouts of America, ScoutReach program.

Due to COVID-19 the concert has been canceled this year, but raffle tickets are still available.

If you would like to buy a ticket, contact Barbara Glick at 903-277-4340, or visit their website, www.claysgolfandguitars.com.

Click here to tune in to Texarkana Monthly’s Facebook page for the livestream of the Raffle Drawing on Saturday, August 22, 2020!

Why is Scouting important to you?

Bennie Raney… As an educator and parent I’ve witnessed firsthand the positive effects the Scouting program has on our young people. Trained leaders not only verbally teach the 12 points of the Scout Law, they model them while providing fun activities, projects and events that result in strong, responsible leaders in our community and beyond. When it comes to the question of supporting our Scouting program, my answer is always a resounding “yes.”

Dr. James Henry Russell… The years I spent as an assistant Scoutmaster with my son when he was between the ages of 11 and 16 were some of the absolute best years of my life. Not only did I see him grow and develop because of the Scout Oath and Law, but I did as well. During that time, we spent close to 100 nights under the stars (overnight camping for non-Scouters). If you want a young person to develop in to a confident, ethical, and strong leader, there is no question in my mind that Scouting is a huge part of that formula. It certainly was for Reed and me.

Dr. Robert McGinnis… Growing up in Texarkana, Scouting has always been an important part of my life. Along the journey from Tiger to Eagle, I learned many important life lessons as well as outdoor and leadership skills. Teaching the youth of the Texarkana area the importance of citizenship, personal fitness, and character development continues to be the mission of the Caddo Area Council. Well trained Scouts become strong leaders for our businesses, communities, and nation! Additionally, Scouting is Fun!

R. Mason White… Scouting is important for our Texarkana community because it gets kids off technology and back outside. Hiking, canoeing, sleeping under the stars, cooking over an open flame. When was the last time you heard about a kid developing anger issues or lacking motivation because he had been spending too much time in nature?

Anthony Escobar… Our Caddo Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, is a movement that teaches our boys and girls the meaning of the Scout Oath and Law that begins with “On My Honor.” We are impacting the lives of families and our entire community. Our Scouting movement is awesome. Scouting is FUN!

Fred Markham… Scouting instills strong values, builds character and trains for leadership through personal achievement, adventures and service to others.”

Judy Morgan… I think Scouting is so important for our community because of the impact it has on each and every young person who is a part of the Scouting experience in their formative years—the important years of learning how to make good choices and influencing for the better the type of person they will ultimately become. My son started Scouting in kindergarten and completed his Eagle Scout rank when he was a junior in high school. Those years made up ten of the most important years of my son’s life. The Scouting experience enabled him to form lifelong friendships with peers with shared values and character building experiences that have helped him in college, getting his first job and now as a proud father of a son and a daughter whom he hopes to lead in the Scouting tradition. A great legacy for a son, a father and one who through Scouting learned the importance of giving back to their community.

Dr. Mary Ellen Young... The Scout Oath and Scout Law are the very foundation for which leadership and character development are based. My father, the late Dr. Mitchell Young, joined the Caddo Area Council at the age of eleven, and he and my mother raised their ten children based on the Catholic faith and the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. As a result, my father and eight brothers are Eagle Scouts, and my sister
and I completed the highest rank in Girl Scouts. The principles of Scouting have prepared each of us for life.
Scouting in the Caddo Area Council develops character and in many cases, fills the vacancy for children when leadership is absent. Scouting changes lives. Once a Scout, always a Scout.

Tina Veal Gooch... As a participant in the Scouting program during my early years, I know firsthand the wonderful opportunities Scouting affords its participants in terms of self-esteem, leadership skills and building life-long friendships. Scouting allows you to learn more about finding a purpose and the importance of others before self. It develops a more well-rounded individual who in time understands their role in a community and the job that they have as an individual in making sure their community is sustained and valued.

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