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Originally published March 10, 2010 at 9:40 PM | Page modified March 10, 2010 at 9:58 PM

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Medical device entrepreneur Joe Eichinger dies

Joe Eichinger, well-known entrepreneur of medical devices, died Monday in Everett of pancreatic cancer. Services are Saturday in Everett.

Seattle Times staff reporter

To Joe Eichinger, there was nothing a determined mind couldn't conquer.

Hard work bred success — simple as that. As a businessman, he lived by this law. As a father, it was what he most wanted to impart to his teenage sons.

That's why, late last summer, when Mr. Eichinger started noticing stomach pains, he didn't think much of it. Just a little something. He'd get over it.

A CT scan showed a large mass on his pancreas, and a biopsy in November confirmed the worst: Mr. Eichinger had pancreatic cancer. Stage four. Inoperable.

The man who spent a lifetime building a career as one of the region's best-known medical-device entrepreneurs, died Monday at his Everett home. He was 65.

"We could see the end was coming," said his wife, Mary Eichinger.

Mr. Eichinger was born June 13, 1944, in Chicago. He grew up in the suburbs, and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University in 1967. Two years later, he landed a job with Honeywell and moved to the Seattle area.

He was fascinated with biotechnology, because he loved "knowing that you were developing devices that could eventually help people," his wife said.

In 1976, he became the 13th employee in a startup ultrasound company, Advanced Technology Labs (ATL) when it was "literally a business in a garage," she said. It is now Philips Medical Systems in Bothell. One of his companies pioneered the infusion of drugs into a patient's tissue via ultrasound.

Mr. Eichinger valued new ideas coming out of the University of Washington. He spent many hours teaching students and faculty how to translate those skills into the business world. This year, he became the first-ever recipient of the UW's Department of Bioengineering Service Award.

John Steel, lead attorney for Mr. Eichinger's company, CoAptus, first met Mr. Eichinger in the 1980s. Steel said it was impossible not to notice Mr. Eichinger's blond, handsome looks.

"You'd think: 'That's somebody who looks like he couldn't be a nice guy,' but the reality was he was a very nice guy," Steel said.

Soon, Steel learned what Mr. Eichinger was all about — creativity, innovation and focus.

As someone who was constantly hiring people, Mr. Eichinger always noticed on résumés whether an applicant was an Eagle Scout, said his wife. An Eagle Scout is considered the highest rank in the Boy Scouts.

The honor spoke volumes to Mr. Eichinger about hard work. He felt so strongly about this, he urged his sons Joey, 18, and Luke, 17 — sometimes amid loud protests — to keep at that goal, despite the distractions of high school, his wife said.

Days before he died, his elder son got the award. And Mr. Eichinger was there to cheer him on.

In addition to his wife and children, survivors include his brother, Ken Eichinger, and wife Irma, of San Diego.

A memorial will be held at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 2510 Hoyt Ave., Everett, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 13. Reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made in Mr. Eichinger's name to Virginia Mason Pancreatic Cancer Fund, Dr. Vincent Picozzi, Mailstop B2 VMMC, 1100 Ninth Ave., Seattle, WA 98111.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or

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