The size of a man's legacy can often be appreciated only after his passing. A packed house of more than 600 friends and family entered Westwood Lutheran Church on April 20 to say goodbye to Joel Koch, who passed away suddenly on April 17 at the tender age of 49. A legacy that won't be easily duplicated or ever forgotten in St. Louis Park.
Koch touched hundreds of people and will be remembered as "Mr. St. Louis Park Sports" for his unselfish commitment to volunteering as a basketball, football and baseball coach. Fittingly, Koch could be seen at a SLP girls softball game before heading off to coach his son's AAU basketball practice on the evening of his passing. "It was always a great day for a game," he would say.
His boys Alex (20) and Charlie (17) were the joys of his life. Alex is a sophomore basketball player at SW Minnesota State, and Charlie is a junior at St. Louis Park High School, where he competes in football and basketball. He was a service-oriented man, and had knowledge and friendship to give of himself unselfishly to hundreds of others.
He served on the St. Louis Park School Board several years ago, and was a tireless coach and board member for years in football and basketball. He could be seen attending every St. Louis Park football, boys and girls basketball games. He followed in his father Ronald's service to others (he was a Lutheran Minister), as a tireless volunteer leader and sponsor as a member of the Westwood Lutheran Church congregation.
Attached are stories and memories from three families that were touched by Joel Koch:
I only knew of Joel Koch from seeing him at SLP football games and basketball games but never actually met him until some parents suggested that he coach my daughter's 6th grade traveling basketball team. Four years ago, Joel walked into the SLP Jr. High School gym to run tryouts for the SLP girls traveling basketball association and into our lives. He accepted the position of coach, and instilled strong work ethic, teamwork and a fun atmosphere that elevated the girls to new heights. He helped take a group of girls who hadn't won a game in 2006-07 to winning their first trophies in the Coon Rapids tourney.
The group played hoops year-round under Joel. From winter team to spring, summer camps and fall league teams, Joel displayed unparalleled commitment to the improvement of the girls. Six of the original players from 07-08 kept working and lettered for St. Louis Park's girls basketball team this season.
Joel was thrilled to become the assistant varsity/JV Coach this year at St Louis Park, and continue teaching and helping to improve the girls program. Joel became so close to "His Girls" that he started showing up at their softball games, plays, Bat Mitzvahs and parties. Joel even threw a party for our daughter Lauren when she lettered as an eighth grader for softball. In addition to all of this, he was a mentor, active member at his church and participated on the boards for several sports.
With heavy hearts, Joel's girls were scheduled to play in the MN Hoops basketball tourney last weekend, only one day after Joel's funeral. The girls decided to play in the tourney because they knew Joel would have wanted them to play. Joel worked very hard with these girls and would have wanted it this way. The girls all wore black armbands with "J K" sewn in bright orange in honor of Joel and in very fitting fashion, the girls went on with the tournament and took first place by going 3-0.
The team took the winning bracket sheet and displayed it proudly in the team room for everyone to see. Coach Chris Bjorgaard dedicated the title to Joel, and placed one of the trophies in the team room in honor and memory of Joel Koch. Son, Father, Mentor, Coach and Friend. He was Mr. St. Louis Park, he touched many lives. He will be missed.
-Mike, Bari, Lauren & Jonah Resnick
Joel treated the Park athletic community with love and dedication that no one can match. He treated everyone he met with complete respect, and in return, became one of the most respected people I've ever known. His love of children and his team was unrivaled. He became a second father figure to my daughter Katelyn, whom he coached for four years. The city, schools and all of our lives will never be the same without him. His unselfish commitment to others ensures that no one will ever forget him.
Joel was a wonderful coach, but he was much more than that. He was a natural leader, a mentor and a great friend. Joel had a gift of being able to form very individual connections with everybody. He always put everybody else first. Joel was not motivated by money, yet lived a very rich life. I only knew Joel for about four years, but in that time I feel very fortunate to have become friends with him and spent a great deal of time with him. My family and I will always look back on this time with great fondness. I welcome his boys into our family like sons, and I know he thought of our daughters as his own. He will be truly missed. Joel always used basketball as a great metaphor for life. He loved the game and was truly a student of it. The basketball community has lost a great champion.
Memorials should be sent to:
Joel Koch Memorial Fund, Wells Fargo,
c/o Paul Koch
18535 8th Ave. N
Plymouth, MN, 55447