Jim Koehler, husband, father, neighbor, friend and beloved and respected former Northfield High School teacher and coach, passed away January 1, 2014. Jim was born on May 18, 1932 in Winona, MN. He graduated from Cotter High School there and, after a stint in the US Air Force during the Korean War, went on to graduate from Winona State University with a Masters Degree in English. Jim spent 5 years at his first teaching job in West Concord, MN before moving to Northfield to teach in 1963. Except for the 1968-69 school year spent as an exchange teacher at the Peninsula School for Boys in Mt. Eliza, Australia, Jim spent the rest of his teaching career as a proud Northfield Raider. For many, many years, he was a football coach and the announcer’s voice for Raider football, basketball, swimming and track contests. If he was not at the microphone, there was no mistaking his booming voice easily heard above the din of the crowd: “Way to be! Way to be! Way to be!”
Affectionately dubbed “Lord Jim” by many of his students, as a teacher, Jim challenged them with great literature, plays and speeches, demonstrating his unabashed joy in the power of words and language. He loved teaching, and reveled in the classroom atmosphere, often delivering Shakespearean soliloquys while standing on top of his desk, or wielding the infamous axe to incisively drive home a point in Semantics.
Jim was active in St. Peter’s Lutheran Church chairing and serving on various committees and eagerly adding his voice as choir member. His urge to sing was irrepressible and never left him even as his mind otherwise yielded to the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. In the end, the sound of music was his joy, and to see his joy was our joy.
On many weekend winter afternoons, Jim was found attempting a mini-boggin distance record to reach Lincoln Street from the top of Old Main Hill. On the way back up the hill, he was always available to pull another’s sled or two back to the top as he calculated the conditions for his next run. In summer, he would take his sons to Family Swim at the nearby municipal pool where upon he was “put to work” launching a rag-tag line-up of eager children through the air for a big splash, or just serving as a human pier to cling to in the middle of the 5-foot end of the pool.
Jim gave his time to many big causes, political, educational, or otherwise, but making life easier and happier for those close to him as well as to complete strangers every day in a thousand little ways was a big part of his being. He wanted no credit, no accolades: helping people was what he did. If he saw you in that parking lot with a cart full of stuff, he would instinctively volunteer to help you unload AND return your cart to the rack. With Jim along and a parking lot full of departing shoppers, it took a long time for us to get into the store.
Jim is survived by his bride of 58 years, Ardy, son Paul and daughter-in-law Naomi, grandchildren Rachel (Dan) Johnson and Max Koehler, great-granddaughters Brooklynn and Kailen Johnson, sister Polly Jung, brother Edward, and daughter-in-law Dori Koehler. His son Marty preceded him in death four years ago.
Written by son Paul
A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at 3:00PM Thursday, January 9. 2014, at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Northfield with Rev. David Weeks officiating. A pizza party will follow. Visitation will be 4-6PM Wednesday, January 8, 2014, at the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home & at church Thursday one hour prior to the service.
Memorials will be directed to the Alzheimer’s Association and St. Peter’s Lutheran Special Fund. Contributions to the Alzheimer’s Association received directly by the family will be forwarded under the Team Grandpa Koehler banner by captain and granddaughter, Rachel.
Arrangements are with the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home. www.northfieldfuneral.com