Jean Koch, a fixture on The Occasions’ letters web page for 55 years, dies at 100


About eight months earlier than Los Angeles activist, author and matriarch Jean Koch’s demise on April 11, she went to church and took a seat within the courtyard. Somebody poured her a glass of pinot grigio. Another person arrange a microphone.

It was her one centesimal birthday celebration. Koch, sporting a splash of vibrant blue in her silver hair, greeted mates, laughed usually and listened as intently as her imperfect listening to would permit as her 5 youngsters took turns telling tales.

What number of instances had Jean been arrested? Maybe solely as soon as, within the Eighties, when daughter Jill Tovey and her husband needed to bail her out after a protest over Nicaragua. However there have been so many marches and protests.

And what number of letters to the editor had Koch printed? At the very least 65 within the Los Angeles Occasions over 55 years, which places her among the many opinion web page’s most frequent contributors by way of the a long time.

Koch weighed in on sustainable vitality, road distributors, water conservation, the demise penalty, abortion, civil rights and Latin America. However she additionally wrote about much less momentous topics, just like the part-time job at Sears that received her husband by way of medical faculty; how you can banish rats from Metropolis Corridor (get a cat); and the way her household spent the evening after the 1933 Lengthy Seaside earthquake (in an orange grove, scared of aftershocks).

“After I inform my mates I’ve a photo voltaic garments dryer, they’re amazed that I’ve such a implausible equipment,” she wrote on April 18, 2009, “till I add that it’s a line between two poles.”

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Certainly one of Jean Koch’s letters to the editor.

(L.A. Occasions)

Koch was not fairly 5 ft tall, with vitality and a way of engagement that defied actuarial tables. Till age 98, Koch volunteered weekly at a meals financial institution, choosing up and distributing groceries to neighbors in want. Till 99, she drove herself to the 99-cent retailer and church, when the pandemic permitted.

At 96, serving on a pastoral search committee for her church, Koch wished to make sure that a promising candidate was fabricated from sturdy sufficient stuff.

“She was little however fierce,” recalled the Rev. Ashley Hiestand of Mt. Hollywood United Church of Christ. “And he or she fired out a query about whether or not I’d be prepared to be concerned in protests … She walked her religion.”

“She was a insurgent,” Tovey stated.

“Fiery,” stated daughter Christine Koch.

She had grown up in a conservative household on an orange and walnut farm in Backyard Grove, forbidden from dancing. But after voting for Richard Nixon in 1960 and Barry Goldwater in 1964, she advanced right into a Democrat, city environmentalist and civil-rights crusader.

Kathryn Jean Holt was about 20, enjoying the marimba at an Orange County USO dance, when she met Richard Koch, an Air Pressure bombardier and soon-to-be medical pupil. After they married in late 1943, he was dispatched to Europe, the place he was shot down and brought prisoner on Easter Sunday, 1944.

For 13 of their first 19 months as a married couple, Richard Koch was locked in a German jail camp. By the point he was launched in Could 1945, Jean Koch was on her method to a level in elementary schooling at San Jose State.

The couple moved a couple of instances as Richard Koch completed his coaching as a physician and commenced work as a pediatrician, however within the mid-Fifties, they discovered their means again to Los Angeles County. Jean Koch took the lead in elevating 5 youngsters whereas Richard Koch labored at Kids’s Hospital Los Angeles.

For years, Tovey recalled, “my mother and pop had been at all times canceling out one another’s votes. Then someplace alongside the road, I don’t know precisely when that occurred, however hastily she was a Democrat.”

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Jean Koch’s daughter Leslie Ochs recommended that it was the concepts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., seen talking on the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in 1964, that turned Jean right into a Democrat.

(Los Angeles Occasions)

Daughter Leslie Ochs’ principle: “I feel it was Martin Luther King. I feel that swept her up and she or he selected sides.”

“It was an evolution,” daughter Christine Koch stated. “She was very touched by Martin Luther King and she or he sang within the choir on the L.A. Coliseum when he spoke” in 1964.

Round this time, the letters to The Occasions started.

On Feb. 26, 1968, Koch wrote to denounce the demise penalty: “There is no such thing as a logical motive for persevering with this barbaric follow. It can’t be stated to be a deterrent to crime since statistics present us that states and nations the place capital punishment has been abolished have the identical, if not a decrease, homicide fee than they did once they practiced it.”

On Dec. 14, 1971, in response to a column about shortages of open house within the metropolis, she wrote: “Why not multi-purpose cemeteries that will double as golf programs, picnic areas or playgrounds?”

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Certainly one of Jean Koch’s letters to the editor.

(Los Angeles Occasions)

The Koch household lived a few years in Westchester, the place Jean Koch volunteered for a fair-housing group, posing as a would-be tenant and teaming with Black allies to see if potential landlords would deal with them equally. In 1970, when the household left for a sabbatical 12 months in Trujillo, Peru, the Kochs made positive to lease their dwelling to a Black household, apparently the primary within the neighborhood.

Ultimately the Kochs settled in Los Feliz, close to Kids’s Hospital, heading each summer season to a mountain cabin in Mineral King, now a part of Sequoia Nationwide Park. Koch joined the Mt. Hollywood church, rose to management, sang within the choir, performed marimba often, carried out in group theater and stored writing letters.

March 8, 1976: “Once we contemplate that the nuclear business is piling up tons of lethal waste supplies yearly, for which there isn’t a confirmed protected storage technique, and far of which is able to stay lethal for 500,000 years, it’s apparent that we should change our methods. And after we contemplate the dwindling provide of fossil gas on this planet, the identical realization is apparent.”

Sept. 25, 1978: “I’m blissful for my grandson, who rides the bus to a faculty the place he’s making new mates of all colours. Hopefully, when he turns into an grownup, busing to attain integration gained’t be essential.”

Could 13, 1988: “Lower down on rest room flushing. One flush will do for the entire household at bedtime. Keep in mind, every flush makes use of 8 gallons of water.”

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Jean Koch in 1997.

(Christopher Carlson

At Kids’s Hospital, Richard Koch devoted most of his profession to developmental disabilities, particularly the early detection and prevention of phenylketonuria, generally known as PKU. In 1974, utilizing the popular language of the period, Richard and Jean Koch cowrote the guide “Understanding the Mentally Retarded Baby: A New Strategy,” printed by Random Home.

In 1997, Jean Koch printed “Robert Guthrie – the PKU Story,” a biography of the physician who developed the primary PKU screening take a look at. In 2011, Richard Koch died. Jean Koch’s correspondence continued.

“She beloved writing letters to the editor,” Tovey stated. “One time she informed me, ‘I’ve received to watch out [and not write too often].’ As a result of they maintain monitor.’ ”

On Sept. 6, 2014, when The Occasions requested for verse from readers, Koch weighed in with an extended poem about grammar, which included this couplet:

Put prepositions the place they belong/

Not on the finish. That’s all unsuitable.

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Certainly one of Jean Koch’s letters to the editor

(Los Angeles Occasions)

On Jan. 15, 2020, she recalled the short-term Quonset-hut metropolis constructed for returning veterans in Griffith Park after World Battle II. “By some means the town discovered it in its coronary heart to supply a serving to hand to individuals who had been in want. It’s unconscionable that we have now individuals dying on our sidewalks as a result of there isn’t a shelter.”

Koch made it safely by way of the worst of the pandemic. However by March, non-COVID respiratory points had put her within the hospital. By early April, 9 days earlier than her demise, Koch was dwelling in mattress underneath hospice care.

That day a gaggle from her church gathered round to sing a few of her favourite hymns and showtunes. “She was singing with us,” Leslie Ochs stated. “She was so grateful for that.”

Along with Tovey and Ochs, Koch is by son Tom Koch, daughter Christine Koch, son Martin Koch, 10 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter.

Los Angeles Occasions editorial library director Cary Schneider contributed to this story.


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