KOCH, Jean nee Kienbaum July 24, 1932 to January 29, 2021 Tekoa, Washington witnessed the birth of Iva Jean Kienbaum on July 24, 1932 and sadly Avemere South Hill witnessed her death on January 29, 2021. She was Jean or Jeanie for the majority of her life by all who were blessed to know her. Growing as up as third of seven children in the farming areas of Fairfield/Rockford, Jean developed an early love of all things growing; flora, feathered and furred. She pursued horticulture at Washington State College (now W.S.U.) earning a B.S. in 1954. The Finch Arboretum was lucky to have employed her after earning her degree. The arboretum had to give her up to John R. Koch as they were married in 1955 after John's enrollment as a pilot for the Marine Corps. Throughout their travels as a military couple during the Vietnam War they created three children; Murray, Kevin, and Shawnee. Jean managed to maintain a household and raise three children during such a time of unrest and change, all done with a husband overseas for up to a year at a time. Still, she managed to volunteer as an early childhood educator and subsequently pursued teaching as a vocation when the war came to a close. Between military assignments, the family embraced a love of camping, hunting, and fishing; from Cabo San Lucas to Grand Coulee Dam. Jean became a trailer-camping wizard by keeping "relative peace" among a family of five plus a dog and even a cat! Upon her husband's retirement in 1975, Jean and family returned to their roots in Eastern Washington. Not only did Jean rekindle her ardor for sports, specifically basketball and football, she also learned the retail business at Hurd's Grocery in Rockford. Jean continued her passion for sports her entire life, especially in her last few years and often to the alarm of the Avamere staff! Subsequent to her employment at Hurd's, Jones Low Priced Drugs on the Spokane's South Hill was lucky to snap her up. She went on to become an integral part of Jone's business as purchasing agent. Tragically, Jean and her family bore the sudden accidental death of her oldest son, Murray, in 1983. A woman of fierce determination and independence, she carried on despite such a tragedy. She continued her love of horticulture and regional crafts by going on many landscaping and quilting tours throughout the Spokane area with her little sister, Dixie. After seeing a whimsical landscaping display at one home on the tour she developed a full-fledged obsession with flamingos. Jean finally retired from retail. She and John traveled, re-exploring the Northwest as well as discovering the unusual flora and fauna of Brisbane, Australia. By 2004 her husband's health was declining and his dementia increasing. Jean went on to care for John for the next eight years, until he passed in 2013. A fracture of her ankle in 2018 forced a much dreaded move from her beloved farm in Rockford to assisted care at Avamere South Hill. Again, Jean persevered as she embraced the new life style as only a woman of such mental strength can, despite her own physical decline. For the next 2 1/2 years she enjoyed the activities offered, including wheel chair yoga, bingo, and most certainly, painting a hobby she had dabbled in all her life. 2019 presented Jean with a most splendid outing when an Avamere employee arranged for Jean to visit a gentleman in Spokane who had a flock of Chilean flamingos. Jean's passion of these unusual coral pink birds was fulfilled. This was a trip she treasured, along with so many of her incredible adventures and endeavors. The restrictions of Covid 19 did not daunt Jean's fervor for her sports teams even though activities and outings were limited. The Seattle Seahawks, Mariners, W.S.U. Cougars, E.W.U Eagles, Gonzaga Bulldogs, and Golden State Warriors will most certainly notice the absence of Jean's vocal support. And we will continue to treasure her creativity, humor, and independent spirit. At 4:30am on January 29, 2021 Jean's mental strength would not outlast her physical decline. I think we can all agree that Jean was, most certainly, One Fine Lady. Immeasurable gratitude to all who participated in Jean Koch's life, she treasured all. You know who you are. Thank you to Anna Wright for granting permission to reprint "One Fine Lady" amidst her own loss. The flamingo whimsy shall carry on. Interment is scheduled for May 22, noon, at Rockford Cemetery. Face masks and social distancing. Hazen & Jaeger Funeral Home, 1306 N. Pines, Spokane Valley.
Published in Spokesman-Review from Mar. 17 to May 16, 2021.