Arch Ecker only lived in Butte for 16 of his 56 years on this planet.
It sure seems like he was here a lot longer than that.
Ecker was known by so many in town as the “Archman.” It was a title I believe he gave himself when he was working at KMBR in Butte. If memory serves me right, it was his way of making fun of disk jockey nicknames.
The moniker, though, seemed perfect. It was good enough that the legendary Gamers Café in Butte named the Archman Omelet after the comical voice on the morning radio. (Click here for the podcast version of this column.)
I got my first taste of the Archman Omelet one morning in the KMBR studio. Matt Vincent and I arrived at 6 o’clock one very cold morning to play “Celebrity Trivial Pursuit,” and Vinny and I were the “celebrities.”
Arch ordered us some omelets and paid for the local taxi to deliver them. Arch used DoorDash before there was DoorDash.
Vinny and I had so much fun doing a couple of hours of radio with Arch that we decided to invite him to be our special guest during the Elsie Awards.
The Montana Standard fun police decided they would no longer run our column, so we went radio only that year with the Archman.
We wrote the column at Maloney’s and had so much fun it should have been illegal. In fact, it might have been.
We went on the radio a few mornings later and read the column the three of us wrote. The listeners could not have laughed as hard as we did as we relived our silliness live on the radio.
During those mornings with Arch, we got a glimpse into the true radio genius that he was.
My favorite part was seeing him do his character, Cletus. I wish I could remember Cletus’ last name. I remember it was really funny, but I cannot remember what it was.
Cletus had the thick redneck accent that you would expect of a guy named Cletus.
To let you behind the curtain, Cletus was Arch. Or, Arch was Cletus.
Arch used the station phone to call the switchboard. Then he put the phone line on the air.
Watching Arch simultaneously play the part of two people was better than watching an Abbott and Costello routine. He would go back and forth from the radio microphone and the phone as he held a hilarious, and borderline schizophrenic, conversation with himself.
Cletus called in just about every day to go over the weather with Arch. He would talk about the hot and cold spots in the country from the day before. He would also mention the location in the country that had the most precipitation.
Cletus called that the “wet spot,” and Arch agreed it was no place to be.
The only thing that could rival Cletus calling in was Arch reading the hot lunch menu with his buddy Tommy O’Neill.
In November of 1996, Arch found his true calling when he stumbled into broadcasting hockey games for the Butte Fighting Irish.
That team, of course, became simply the Irish in its second season, and Arch called 329 games for the team before it closed up shop.
During those 329 games, Arch discovered that he was put on this planet to call hockey games.
Well, call hockey games, play music, entertain and have a whole lot of fun. That is what Arch did.
Arch was a California native, and a huge fan of the Los Angeles Kings.
He might go down as one of the only Californians to end up being a beloved figure in the Mining City.
With the Irish done playing, Arch went looking for another team to call. He did not want to leave Butte, where he was a popular singer in the band Venus Alley.
Even after he left, Arch was still a popular musician in Butte. His trips back to visit usually included at least one night performing at Julian’s Piano Bar.
Arch only left because he had to follow his passion.
“I put the headset on and it felt like I was doing it forever,” he said of calling his first game.
He liked calling games so much, that, after the Irish folded, he would drive to Helena to broadcast for their Junior A Hockey team while he still worked at KMBR early in the morning.
In April of 2006, Arch left Butte to take a job as the radio man for the Santa Fe (New Mexico) RoadRunners. A year later, the team moved to Topeka, Kansas, and Arch went with them.
I caught up with Arch in September of 2013 to write a story about him calling his 1,000th hockey game. I asked him how life was going, and Arch replied in a way that was so Arch.
“I’m talking hockey all the time, playing music and fooling the masses,” Arch said. “It’s called living the dream.”
Eventually, that dream took Arch to Wenatchee, Washington, where he was the beloved play-by-play broadcaster for the Wenatchee Wild.
Arch was preparing to call his 1,500th career game at the beginning of this season.
In June of 2021, however, Arch was involved in a horrific single-car crash on Interstate 90 near Ritzville, Washington.
His car flipped and rolled several times, and it took nothing short of a miracle for Arch to survive.
It took a miracle, multiple surgeries and a whole lot of will to live.
Arch knew how much he was needed by so many people who love him.
He kept all of his family and friends updated on his recovery with a series of videos from his hospital bed.
Those videos eventually were broadcast from a rehabilitation facility before Arch finally went home.
Through it all, he always had that incredible sense of humor. Through it all, he was still the Archman.
On Sept. 6, Arch posted a selfie on Facebook. He said he was in Spokane, getting ready to go in for one last surgery.
Arch never made it out of the hospital.
A week later, he died of a heart attack in his hospital room, and the world has been a less funny place ever since.
The outpouring of love for Arch on social media was off the charts. Arch left a trail of people who loved him at every place he ever called home.
The Archman left this planet way too soon. He was only 56. We figured we’d get another 1,500 games and another billion laughs out of him before he was gone.
One post on his Facebook page quoted Dr. Seuss.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
It took me several weeks to finally be able to see clearly enough to write about my friend. Even though I had not seen him or talked to him in many years (other than Facebook), I miss him terribly.
When I think of Arch, though, I will always smile and be happy that it happened. That Arch happened.
He was one man who truly showed us all how to live the dream.
— Bill Foley, who also misses the Archman Omelet, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.
Great writing about Great guy and great friendships. It takes two to form a great friendship- well done, well spoken