Remebering a man who cared

Carl Francis Eby, a leading soil scientist, devoted "neighborhood dad," and former Athletic Association president, died Jan. 4.

By: Stephanie Brown
   Carl Eby’s house has two stairwell railings — one for adults, and a smaller one just beneath the first for kids.
   "That’s Carl Eby right there," said his brother, Richard Eby, meaning that even the smallest detail of Mr. Eby’s Sandhills Road home is testament to how much he cared for children.
   Richard Eby of Missouri and others remembered his brother’s open house attitude toward the neighborhood kids while they gathered at Carl Eby’s house on the day of his funeral on Monday.
   Carl Francis Eby, 74, of Monmouth Junction died Jan. 4, at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick.
   Born on Aug. 10, 1931 in Ridley Park, Pa., where he was raised, he lived in South Brunswick for 45 years. He was a leading soil scientist of New Jersey, dedicated sports coach and recognized member of the township.
   In 1950, Mr. Eby graduated from the Church Farm School for boys from broken homes in Paoli, Pa. His experiences there influenced who he became as an adult, sparking his interest in the land and recognizing the importance of a safe haven for young kids, said his family.
   "His parents were divorced, which was really rare back then, and the school was a safe place for kids to go and be around kids the same age," said his son, James Eby of Monmouth Junction.
   In later years, Mr. Eby’s house became what was affectionately referred to as "The Eby’s Boys Club," said James Eby, describing how the neighborhood kids would be sprawled throughout the house just to hang out day and night.
   "I guess what a lot of people remember was this was a sanctuary," he said. "If kids weren’t seeing eye to eye with their parents, they could come over to the Ebys’."
   Today, one could easily envision the hang out that was the Ebys’ place, as his sons, daughters, and neighborhood kids, now all grown up, sat in a circle around the living room.
   "This was the house where all the neighborhood kids joined in," said neighbor Bart Coffey. "There was always six to 12 kids here all the time and he said he didn’t mind."
   "Mr. Eby was the ‘neighborhood dad,’ " added Dana Breen, a neighbor of Mr. Eby’s from 1963 to 1985. "The Eby house was the center of the Sand Hills neighborhood. Practically every fond memory that I have of growing up is related in one way or another to the Ebys."
   But that didn’t mean it was always fun and games at the Ebys’; everyone remembers being put to work in order to help with Mr. Eby’s dedication to the township’s sports program.
   Instrumental in forming the South Brunswick Athletic Association, Mr. Eby became its first president, his term lasting 10 years. Athletics were important to Mr. Eby, said his family, and he worked hard coaching and volunteering his time, home and family.
   "My father had a basic belief about kids that age — if you don’t give them something to do, they’re going to get into trouble," said James Eby. "I guess he learned that working on the farm."
   Something else he learned on the farm was how to tend to the earth.
   "The greenhouse was his favorite," said Richard Eby, who also attended Church Farm School. "I think that’s what got him interested in it all."
   In 1954, Mr. Eby graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and as a member of Alpha Gamma Rho, an agricultural fraternity. From 1956 to 1958, he served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a first Lieutenant. He pursued his graduate studies at Michigan State University and Rutgers from 1959 to 1961. Then, he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service for 30 years and taught undergraduate and continuing education courses in soils at Rutgers. After retiring in 1987, he became a self-employed soils consultant.
   Township Health Officer Steven Papenberg was taught by Mr. Eby at Rutgers and later enlisted his services for the township, primarily in the application of septic systems.
   "He was the type of person who, even though he wasn’t paid, he’d agreed to be a resource," said Mr. Papenberg.
   Jim Morris, assistant director of the Office of Continuing Education at Cook College, met Mr. Eby in 1986 and considers himself lucky to have worked with him.
   "He had a lifetime worth of knowledge that he shared with everyone," said Mr. Morris. "He really was a link to an older generation of soil scientists."
   At the time of Mr. Eby’s retirement in the late 1980s, there was a huge explosion in the need for people to understand soil science, according to Mr. Morris.
   "Mr. Eby was one of only a handful then that had the skill and expertise," he said, noting Mr. Eby’s zeal. "He’d spend five hours a day in the soil pits, teaching about the soil’s color, structure; he always looked like he was really enjoying it."
   Mr. Eby’s wife, Thelma M. Eby, is deceased. He is survived by five children, Marguerite Atherton of Kendall Park, Carl S. Eby and his wife, Carol, of Franklin Park, James Eby and his fiancé, Melanie Flagg, of Monmouth Junction, Linda Eby of Monmouth Junction and Mike Eby and his wife, Nancy, of Hawley, Pa.; two brothers, Robert Eby of Nathalie, Va., and Richard Eby of Branson, Mo.; and seven grandchildren, Will and Jennifer Atheron, Carl Ryan, Colin, Connor, Helena and Alexander Eby.
   The funeral service was held Monday at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. The Rev. Francis Hubbard officiated. Burial followed at Pine Grove Memorial Park in Warminster, Pa. Arrangements were under the direction of the M.J. Murphy Funeral Home, 616 Ridge Road at New Road, Monmouth Junction. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in memory of Carl to CFS School at Church Farm, P.O. Box 2000, Paoli, Pa. 19301.