David 'Dutch' Koehler, 55, was called to serve while here on earth, he lived in faith and died in faith in the loving care of his family at home on the 7th day of August 2019 after a valiant battle against brain cancer. Let perpetual light shine upon him and may he rest in peace with You forever until we all meet again in Your Kingdom.
Dutch was the youngest of five children born to David and Pauline (Bilinski) Koehler. His grandparents, parents and sister Margi preceded him in death. Surviving siblings are Fred (Pam Kratkoczki) Koehler of Clarkston MI, Julie (Dave) Yoder of Osceola, and Alice (Michael) Blakesley of South Bend.
A lifelong resident, Dutch went to Holy Cross Grade School and graduated from LaSalle High School in 1981. He attended Purdue University and IU South Bend. He was a parishioner at St. Joseph Church, South Bend.
One summer, introduced by his sister at the family pool, Dutch met and fell in love with a young nursing student, in time they would 'Tie the Knot'. He would wittingly tell others he was ready for marriage when he had their fixer upper home (circa 1898), their sailboat, his pup 'Galvin' an English Springer, the antique Fire Truck (1946 Seagrave), a great job and finally, the women who embraced it all. Never letting an opportunity escape him he surprisingly and fittingly proposed to Vicki at the Cubs game in Montreal while they celebrated the victory over the Expos clinching the division title in 1989.
On July 5th, 1990 Dutch married Vicki McCammon, vowing to love her forever. In 2019 they celebrated 29 years of marriage. The most cherished chapter of their life's journey together was becoming proud parents to three beautiful children. Loving and guiding them through life's challenges and watching as they grew into unique, responsible, and wonderful adults. Family always came first.
Surviving with their mother (Vicki) are, Grace Elizabeth (James) Lamb, Nashua NH, Brennon David Koehler, Indianapolis IN, and Marissa Lynn Koehler, West Lafayette IN. Also surviving are his nieces Madison Blakesley and Dagny Koehler and nephews Miles Blakesley and Thaddeus Koehler. He was also proud to be a god parent to Thaddeus Koehler and Francis Karczewski.
When asked recently how he would describe himself Dutch responded, "A Realist" and it was in that pragmatic way he lived his life with conviction and purpose. He faced every challenge head on, seeing each as an opportunity to learn and grow; it was okay to fail as long as you kept on trying. His calling was to serve his community and he did just that with integrity and passion for 32 years as a South Bend fire fighter. Captain Koehler led with integrity, energy and enthusiasm promoting strength and camaraderie in his crew. He treated people with respect and compassion, creating loyalty and life long bonds with his brothers and sisters and in turn earned their trust and respect. He did not set out to inspire, he just did.
Dutch had an innate ability to forge relationships. It wasn't unusual to see him extend his hand to introduce himself to a stranger or lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need. He wasn't one to sit back and observe, his engagement in his community came from his moral conviction - in order to affect change you had to be that change. He wanted his own and other children to grow up in a safe neighborhood where kids could be kids and parents worked together to build community. He valued those relationships, the memories and traditions of the neighborhood block parties, the annual Halloween pumpkin carving party, and leading the way with the antique fire truck in the neighborhood 4th of July parade and the Chet Waggoner little league opening day parade.
Dutch cultivated his unique passions in life and shared these gifts unconditionally. As a husband, father, firefighter, mentor, coach, and instructor he created lasting memories. Personally and professionally Dutch was drawn to the power of water and the beauty of the great outdoors. He loved sharing his knowledge of swimming, river rescue, sailing, boat handling and water safety to others; it was second nature to him, a part of who he was.
Dutch swam for LaSalle High School and later would coach the boys swim team there. Early in his career he worked at the East Race. Later he became a life guard instructor, performing the 'red ball' drills at local pools for many years. Dutch swam on the Masters Swim team and competed in swimming events at the Police and Fire World Games. As an Indiana River Rescue Instructor for more than 25 years, Dutch taught swift water rescue to hundreds of other professionals from all over the country. In 1993 he used his skills when he and his team were deployed to Iowa during severe flooding. ' Safety first' was his motto but he threw all caution to the wind when given the opportunity to jump out of a Huey military helicopter into the St. Joseph river as a training exercise.
In his personal life, adventure called - mountains, oceans, great lakes, rivers and pools beckoned him. Dutch was happiest when he was outdoors, camping, sailing, hiking, picnics, sunsets on the beach or just laying out under the stars. He loved to take his family camping, teaching them the value of tent camping at an early age. He made sure each of his children had permanent reminders of each State Park they traveled to by etching a walking stick with the names of each park. His children will always remember with fondness the family adventures.
Dutch was incredibly proud of all three of his children. He taught them to persevere, to believe in themselves, and to always reach for the stars. He instilled in them the value of honesty and hard work. To take the path less traveled and that life isn't always fair but to embrace it. Cherish making memories and live life in the moment. "If you get the choice to sit it out or dance - just dance".
Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday August 13, 2019 at Saint Joseph Parish Gymnasium, 226 N. Hill St., South Bend. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday August 14, 2019 at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, with cremation to follow.
Please send donations to Amazing Grace Organization, https://www.amazinggracenfp.org/, or perennial flowers for a butterfly garden in honor of Dutch, who has earned his wings. To send online condolences, please visit www.kaniewski.com.