Longtime volunteer Keevin Koch leaving FairfieldKoch is leaving to be with family in Tennessee
In a matter of days, all that will remain of Keevin Koch in Fairfield will be stories.
This is not to say that he will be forgotten, because the stories will be plentiful. Keevin, 65, was a volunteer track and field coach at Fairfield High School from 1986 to 2010. He also shot the starting gun at more track and cross-country events than can be recalled. This, however, is only half the story.
Keevin and his wife Marcia will be leaving Fairfield soon. The couple that met at Midwestern School of Evangelism in Ottumwa so many years ago is moving to Tennessee to be close to their three kids and two grandchildren.
“Keevin and Marcia Koch are a great team together,” said Dave Neff, who became a friend of the family in the mid 1970s when the Kochs came to town. “We’ll miss them.”
Keevin and Marcia moved to Fairfield in 1975. Keevin worked selling produce at multiple businesses, including Easters and Hy-Vee. Marcia, once the three kids were on their way out of the house, became a teacher in Fairfield. She taught for 21 years.
Volunteer work has always been a passion for Keevin. He attended ministerial school and is a devout Christian. Keevin frequently would fill in for ministers who were away, perform wedding ceremonies, and oversee funerals, tending to the grieving as he did it. As he put it, he was a minister more ‘for families than churches.’
“What I really enjoy is getting to know people,” Keevin said. “I really enjoy that, and that’s why it’s going to be hard for me to leave town. People in Fairfield are great.”
The track and field program would be significantly different without Keevin’s input. He began volunteering with the distance runners in 1986, when his son Jason was a freshman on the team. Jason would go on to be an All-American runner at Harding University.
Keevin is full of stories about the individuals he has coached. Every coach remembers the great players that have grown under their tutelage, but Keevin remembers the hard workers more. Those individuals who were not necessarily born with talent, but had to give all their effort just to make positive strides. Some of them, like Eric Hunerdosse, remember Keevin in an even brighter light, and have stories of their own.
“I have always been amazed at his willingness to continually help student athletes perform outside of what they believe is possible,” Eric said. “The most important lesson he continues to model every day is to never accept less than your own personal best.”
Eric has sports-induced asthma, and would completely run out of air during races. Passing out at the end of races was not uncommon. Keevin would wait for him at the finish line and make sure he got the medical attention he needed after every race.
“He was a real inspiration to the team,” Keevin said. “I can sit here and name the great runners who I’ve coached, but those are the stories that really stick with you. The kids like Eric.”
Ron Hunerdosse, the current girl’s track coach and Eric’s father, marvels at Keevin’s ability to connect with young people.
“Keevin takes a special interest in the guys that work hard,” Ron said. “He really understands coaching just as well as anyone could understand it.”
Ron is not the only coach who has looked to Keevin. Current cross-country coach Jerrod Belzer knew very little about competitive running when he got the job. Belzer gained perspective from Keevin.
“As a young coach, Keevin has always given me insight and encouragement,” Belzer said.
Current track coach Brian Dunlap feels the same way. Dunlap joined the Fairfield track program in 1997 and became the head coach a year later. The first thing he did was make sure Keevin was staying on to volunteer.
“Kids give him a lot of credit for their success,” Dunlap said. “He has a way of making sure every runner feels like an important part of the team.”
The stories continue beyond students and coaches. Just ask Neff, who ran 5ks and other distance events with Keevin. One race in particular, which took place in Fairfield, would wind up being a significant moment in their friendship.
As Neff approached the finish line, he felt woozy, and began to stagger. The next thing he knew, he was under a lilac bush with a bag of frozen peas around his neck to cool him down. Neff spent the night at the hospital. The Kochs took the Neff children in for the night, telling Dave and his wife they would watch the kids until Dave was feeling well enough to go back home.
“It was an extra special bond that we had with them going forward,” Neff said.
Each person agrees they’ve never heard a cross word said about the Kochs. There are even more stories to be told, and that’s why Ron is holding a going away party for them from 1-4 p.m Sunday at Fairfield Middle School.
“He is an irreplaceable community pillar and his departure will leave a void that could never be filled the same way,” Eric said.
Fairfield has seen Keevin offer his services to organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Lord’s Cupboard, the Fairfield Public Library and even Fairfield Little League. In short, Keevin’s time in Fairfield will be marked by the many weddings and funerals he conducted, his countless hours of volunteering, and the lives he touched.
Keevin doesn’t feel that a story about him is necessary, but some in Fairfield would disagree. When asked how he felt about Ron saying that the community would miss him dearly, Keevin just smiled and offered a simple resignation.
“He’s laying it on pretty heavy, don’t you think?”
That statement allows Keevin’s humility to shine, but maybe that’s a story for a different time.