A couple days each week, a Renaissance woman drives up from her home in Peterborough and settles in at Brooks. Though she could do any of these things, she’s not here to paint, she’s not (usually) tending cattle, and she’s not taking care of a sick family member.
Karen Eckilson is Brooks Post & Beam’s bookkeeper, human resources manager, administrator, and general morale booster. But that isn’t to say her other skills don’t come in handy. As an artist with experience at an ad agency, for example, she’s a knowledgeable resource when it’s time to create printed materials like brochures.
She’s been at Brooks since the end of 2014. It was a good fit, since she had left a full-time job to take care of her father, Jimmy, who was ill and, since, has passed away.
The match also turned the office into a handy support group, since Paul’s family has experienced its own illness and loss.
“We had a reciprocal arrangement,” Karen says. “I was here for them when they had problems and vice versa. You can be more empathetic with people who are going through things when you’re going through these life situations, too.”
They were together, too, as they pulled the company back from the Great Recession, which dramatically affected the construction industry as a whole.
“We worked very hard to get the financial house in order because, like everyone else, business during that economic time suffered,” Karen says. “We’ve had a great couple of years, and we’ve gotten a lot of things accomplished.”
Her secret to success, she says, is, “I’m good at the paper trail. People ask me, ‘you like to paint, and you like to do creative things, why are you doing accounting?’ But you have to really think creatively to find answers when you’re doing things like that.”
Karen started off her office-work career at Balfour Company, where she was promoted to supervisor in less than two years. A few years later, she married and moved to Missouri to tend cattle with her husband. There, in between tornado drills and softball games, she drove 1.5 hours each way for classes at Southern Missouri State. After moving back to New Hampshire, she did HR for a large construction company, where she became OSHA certified ran the office and art directed at an advertising agency, and managed clients’ advertising expenses at a web marketing company.
Somewhere along the way, she and her mother Joanne became certified to teach the Donna Dewey One-Stroke™ method of painting, a technique that results in a natural effect. Together, they ran a “trash to treasure” consignment shop. Her mother, 82, was a huge artistic influence in Karen’s life; having won a four-year scholarship to the Norman Rockwell School herself, Joanne had much to teach her artistic daughter.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount from her over the years,” Karen says. “Her artwork is beautiful. We used to do a lot of paintings and get requests for special projects.”
Karen also works at the chamber of commerce and a Peterborough restaurant. She has a 27-year-old son, Tyler, and loves being unplugged for long snowmobile trips into Canada.
You go on an adventure, you’re forced to relax!”