James Koehler

James Koehler

  • Funeral Date: 1/09/14
  • Funeral Time: 3:00 P.M.
  • Date of Birth: 5/18/32
  • Date of Death: 1/01/14
  • Funeral Location: St. Peter's Lutheran Church - Northfield

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


  1. Brenda Schommer

    So many wonderful memories of Mr. Koehler! My favorites being those of his teachings while atop his desk with arms flailing and his loud booming voice! I always left his room smiling. He will be missed!

  2. Robin Montanye

    I really liked him as a teacher and fondly remember when he wanted to cut open a guy I had a crush on, to reveal his secrets. Of course it never happened, and the guy never knew I had a crush on him. I also remember manakin parts displayed in the window above his class room door. Great man, he will be missed.

  3. Emily Thurston

    I am so sad to read of this. Take care, Emily Thurston, Colorado

    • Ardy Koehler

      Hi Emely, Nice to hear from you – thanks. Paul wrote that obituary.
      How is your Mom? Seems not to have 3mail.

      Just got off Skype with Paul. We chat a lot. Has just returned from visiting his family in Japan for three weeks. Naomi and Max will fly in here Wednesday. All leave Sunday: Paul for Santa Barbara, CA and family for Japan. Wow!

      Take care as we FREEZE! Ardy

  4. Beloved teacher and coach. What a voice!

  5. Thankful to know him more after reading such a well written obituary. I knew him as a young boy/man at church and through school. One would always know Jim was in the room whether he was heard or felt. I was a presence! The Koehler family will be in my prayers as they celebrate the gift Jim was to the world and honor how he lived it to the full! He now rests with our Father in heaven… in peace!

  6. (Emily) Phoebe (Sorem) McNeill

    Jim Koehler was my senior English teacher in 1963-64. Excellent teacher, fair grading and all-around wonderful person. The day JFK was killed I was in his last period class. After an hour of listening to the radio broadcasts of the events, we began our next project in English class: Reading of Theodore Dreisser’s “An American Tragedy.” I was privileged to know both Jim and Ardis even after I graduated from NHS, and my full sympathy go to Ardis and the rest of the family. Wonderful obit. He will always live for us, jumping up on his desk and urging us onward!

  7. Jon Shepard

    Mr. Koehler was my jr high football coach for several years. His enthusiasm for meticulously getting in shape formed my understanding of the hard work ethic in sports. “Hubba Hubba Ding Ding!!” he would say as we ran up and down the hill at the nfld athletic field. No one else in my life has ever said that… or anything else with such gusto. But I have. As a coach in many sports, anytime I would ever desire to instill focus and intense effort into any excersize or training drill my athletes were conducting; “Hubba Hubba Ding Ding” said with gusto and as high a volume as I could muster. Thanks Mr. Koehler. and thank you god for the gift of his being. jws

  8. Gretchen Haines Tupa

    Mr Koehler was my senior English teacher. I learned more in his class than in any other class I have ever taken. He will be missed. My prayers go with his family. He is now at peace.

  9. Farewell beloved teacher and friend. You were an inspiration to so many of us and loved by all. May you rest in peace.

  10. Lisa Dozier

    Rest in peace Lord Jim. You were my favorite teacher!

  11. Sharon Volkert Broske

    Mr Kohler was a wonderful teacher and made English a favorite subject for me. Wish there were more teachers that had his passion!

  12. He was the best. My prayers are with his family.

  13. Sharon Allerson

    So sad to read this news. Unfortunately, I never had Mr. Koehler as a teacher, but I will always remember his joy and enthusiasm singing in the choir at St. Peters! Thank you, Paul, for the wonderful tribute to your father! I was glad to have a chance to learn more about him.

  14. Kathy Ness

    Jim was such a good teacher, friend, neighbor and grand-neighbor to our kids. He made living on Fareway Drive more fun, we’ve missed him for a long time now. Farewell Jim!

  15. Jean Marie Smith

    Sweet Dreams, Uncle Flit! I will always remember the diamond pin you gave me at my dad’s wake…it was a dime glued to a safety pin! Ha Ha! God be with you Aunt Ardy, Love and God Bless you!

  16. Karen Faxvog Anderson

    Ardy, I am so sorry, and I know the many, many wonderful memories of Jim will live on. I won’t forget that great voice of his, and I vividly remember his fun sense of humor, which was a very good way to instill in his students the love Shakespeare etc! How are you? Shoot me an email if you can. Sounds like you have the comfort of Paul’s family, and I am sure you still have that “spark”! Lots of love to you!

  17. Nathan Day

    I have few remaining direct connections to Northfield, so this is over a year late in coming… I only knew “Mr.” Koehler for one semester, in his last year of teaching, but I didn’t realize the outsize impression he made on me until I studied philosophy of religion in college and grad school and then became an English teacher myself. The first revelation, as a post-secondary scholar, was that Mr. Koehler taught our class in the first six weeks of sophomore year was actually the fundamental tenets of structural linguistics and secular humanism. The second is how much I draw on him in my own work with students, and realize as I enter middle age how wonderful a model he was (along with Rieber Paulson, Ken Warner, and Charlie Black) for how to be an “adult” and “experienced educator” without resigning one’s physical energy, enthusiasm, and joy in the subject matter to the scrapbook of one’s teens and twenties. Atop the bulletin board in my room I have a plastic knife, an index card with the word “knife” written on it, and another index card with a dictionary definition of the word “knife” on it — and I pull each one on my students in turn to demonstrate the differences between referent, signifier, and signified. “Oongowa!”as the life-size Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle punching balloon in the corner exclaimed. He was a great man, and it is good to see he led a great life. “If I was [a great teacher], who would know it?” “You; your pupils; your friends; God — not a bad public, that.” (Richard Rich and Sir Thomas More, in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons)

  18. Judy (Meyer) Owen

    I just found this memorial. Mr. Koehler was my 8th & 9th grade English teacher in West Concord. An amazing teacher who left an lasting impression on many students!

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