My beloved friend Ed Koehler passed away Saturday morning, January 8, 2011, in Orange Park, Florida, after suffering a stroke the preceding afternoon at our home in Jacksonville. He requested that there be no services held in his behalf, and his younger sister Claudette and I respect that. But I hope some of you who knew and felt affection for him will pause a few moments and think fondly of him.
Born George Edward Koehler, Jr., on October 31, 1948, in Pensacola, Florida, "Eddie" was graduated from J.M. Tate High School in 1966. He earned a B.S. degree in 1970, with a double major in Mathematics and Music Education on scholarship from Southern Alabama University, in Mobile. He returned to Pensacola where he was an assistant band director and math teacher in the public school system.
In 1972, Ed enlisted and served in the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C., becoming principal flutist and then music copyist for their staff arrangers. Following an Honorable Discharge from active duty in 1976, he transferred to the Naval Reserve, and lived briefly in New York City where he worked as a music copyist and pit musician for Broadway shows.
Upon the advice and encouragement of his older sister Peggy Leonard, Ed qualified for a cosmetology license before heading off in June, 1977, to begin graduate studies in Music Theory at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. It was during this time that Ed became an avid jogger, and he participated in 10K and other runs throughout the southeast, including one near Plains, Georgia, where he ran a "fun run" with President Jimmy Carter. Ed also became an expert Baroque recorder player, and was invited by esteemed flute professor Charles Delaney to join him in performing Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, a surprising honor since Ed was not a performance major.
Completing his Master of Music degree in 1979, Ed began his library career, working as a Library Technical Assistant in several campus libraries at FSU, while also working part time toward a Master of Library Science and Information Studies degree, completed in 1989. He then moved to Utah, working variously as a trainer and consultant for a major library software company, and as Assistant Manager of Technical Services for the Salt Lake County Library system. Ed especially loved hiking in the mountains, and often encouraged friends from Florida to take advantage of his frequent-flyer miles to fly out and "take the tour." But by 1996, Ed had returned to Pensacola to assist his mother, Earline, care for his father, George, Sr., who had sustained a serious injury. There Ed worked as a library consultant, including serving as Interim Manager of Technical Services at Pensacola Public Library from 1997-1998.
Applying himself as diligently to his caregiver responsibilities as to all other tasks he undertook, in 2000 Ed became a licensed and nationally-certified massage therapist, providing massage and physical therapy, as well as the occasional haircut, to mostly elderly or otherwise shut-in clients. From 2003-2006, he also was an instructor at a private massage therapy school and at the community college in Pensacola.
Following the deaths of both parents, Ed retired to Jacksonville in 2007. His life-long passion for gardening seemed to consume most of his time, but he continued to crochet, a hobby he pursued during the frequent flights around the country he had made for the Utah-based software company; and he took up other handicrafts as well, such as making wreaths from native vines he collected. He found great pleasure in observing the wildlife that visited us, including otters, foxes, hummingbirds, wild turkeys, and an alligator nicknamed Gaston-Lucille. An excellent cook, he eagerly volunteered his kitchen skills to help cater receptions that followed Sunday concert programs at Jacksonville Public Library. And Ed took excessively good care of me--he joked that rather than "retired" his occupation really was "personal chef."
In addition to his younger sister Claudette Koehler, in his immediate family Ed is survived by Peggy's daughters Dion Baker and Dawn Leonard, and son Michael Leonard; and by Dion's husband Bobby, and their sons Eric and Coleman Baker. In addition to me, Ed's extended family of friends of long standing, with whom he had maintained frequent, often even daily contact, include (alphabetically): John Beutman, Sandra Hancock, Franko Hargadon, Sylvia Harrelson, Tunie Harris, Dale Hudson, Frank Imbragulio, Sandra Isaacson, and Richard Neimeyer. Of his more recent friendships, Betsy Ferraro has been an important part of our family circle.
A man of great humor and diverse talents, skills and aptitudes, Ed was abundantly generous in sharing his gifts. Throughout his many endeavors he always strove to add order and beauty to whatever he touched. His great, overriding ambition to leave things better than he found them was the legacy of his maternal grandmother Claudia Constantine, whom Ed, as a child, had nicknamed "Love." I -- one among many -- am much the better for having known him over the course of 30-plus years, and especially through these last three-and-a-half years when he shared Love's legacy with me.
Ed Koehler will be missed, but his loving and generous spirit will endure, ever in our hearts.
--Ed Lein, Jacksonville, Florida, January 11, 2011
The first link below is to an mp3 file of a string orchestra arrangement of an a cappella choral piece I wrote and dedicated to Ed in 2006, while he was still living in Pensacola. It is based on a beautiful poem by Carl Sandburg about love and longing, and--now I understand--about loss. Unfortunately Ed never heard it sung, but the words are so much more meaningful to me now, so I am including a link to a pdf of the choral score, too.The Great Hunt (Shores of Shadow : Sandburg Chorales, No. 4)
Carl Sandburg (1878–1967)
Chicago Poems (1916), Fog and Fires
THE GREAT HUNT
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