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Wuzzles creator Tom Ecker reflects on 'all the crazy things' he's done

From show business to cruise ships to Olympics, memoir chronicles busy 84 years

Tom Ecker is seen July 22 at his home in Cedar Rapids. The creator of Wuzzles word puzzles is putting the finishing touches on his memoir, titled “Wherever I Choose.” (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Tom Ecker is seen July 22 at his home in Cedar Rapids. The creator of Wuzzles word puzzles is putting the finishing touches on his memoir, titled “Wherever I Choose.” (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Everyone has a story to tell.

Tom Ecker has enough stories in his 84 years to fill a book.

Ecker, whom Cedar Rapidians may recognize as the creator of the internationally syndicated word puzzle Wuzzles or for his quadrennial coverage as an Olympic Games historian, admitted some of his stories may be unknown even to his children.

“Almost everybody who knows all the crazy things I’ve done ... they’ve said to write this down because nobody will believe it. It’s so wild and crazy,” Ecker said.

Ecker’s memoir, “Wherever I Choose,” is in the process of being edited and will be his 20th book when published.

Ecker, a native of Waverly who now lives in Cedar Rapids, said he wrote the memoir to capture the moments in his life, from the outrageous to the unbelievable.

One chapter, titled “The Old Walrus Goes to Hollywood,” details music Ecker wrote and recorded in the late ’50s at Hollywood’s Capitol Records Building.

Ecker said the all-Iowa group, named the Hawkeyes, was inspired by Kentucky’s the Hilltoppers musical group. They recorded what Ecker called “poor-me ballads.”

The walrus in the chapter title refers to a short-lived nickname forced on Ecker during a one-week stint at a radio station in Fort Dodge.

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Another chapter, titled “Talking at Sea,” explores Ecker’s time spent lecturing on a cruise ship.

Another chapter, “The Cedar Rapids Gazette,” delves into Ecker’s foray into the publishing world.

“I’m very proud of my Olympics writings for The Gazette,” Ecker said, noting he has traveled to and covered the Summer Olympics since 2000, which included the games in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro.

Ecker is signed up to travel to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.

But for someone who is working on his 20th book and has spent the last 35 years creating word puzzles that run across the globe, Ecker remains humble.

“I told myself when I was young that I wanted to be a writer by the time I was 40. I figure I never really made it,” he joked.

Mary Sharp, former Gazette city editor, said she has known and admired Ecker for 25 years.

“To meet Tom is to encounter boundless energy and creativity,” she said. “An attorney once called him a Renaissance man. He shot back, ‘I’d rather not be something I can’t spell.’ That’s Tom — witty, fun and self-deprecating. And a good speller.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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