The Lawrence History Center is sad to announce the death of long time friend and volunteer Al Koch. Al passed away on April 24, 2015 at the age of 90.
Al was a remarkable and brilliant man. He served the country with honor and bravery during WWII and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge, three Battle Stars, the Distinguished Unit Badge, and the Good Conduct Medal. Al held degrees in physics and mathematics and worked as a physicist for Textron Defense Systems. Al could always be counted on to greet you with a salute, a smile and a quick lesson in German!
Phyllis Tyler recalls, "I didn't know Al for very long, but I always thought of him as a warm, unassuming man who was nice to everybody - like a favorite uncle you were always glad to see." LHC director Susan Grabski agrees, "I met Al only a few times, but he was always friendly and willing to lend a hand. He will be missed."
Al was an integral part of the early Immigrant City Archives and largely responsible for our outstanding photograph and negative collection. Lead by Helen Sapuppo, Al, along with Don Traynor, Armand Girouard and Jonathan Smith, worked tirelessly in the darkroom they built in the basement here at 6 Essex St. Al came in daily to shoot photos and create negatives.
We must remember, these were the days before scanners, digital photography and all the advances that are available today. What did we do if someone wanted to donate a copy of a photograph but keep the original for their family? Al would create a negative from the original photo and then develop that negative for us to keep. He and the photo guys (as we affectionately called them) carried out this process for thousands of photos.
Former LHC director Barbara Brown reminds us to "think what he did for the Archives without the much easier methods we have today. Photographing, developing, actual research in person, genealogy by going place to place and not on the internet...what an example of how to create a lasting institution - creating an archive when who knew what an archive was? It was through sheer physical work, brains, determination and loyalty. We are so lucky to have known him."
LHC President, Pam Yameen agrees. "How could we begin to name all the many things he did?"
Al is also responsible for our extensive Boy Scout collection. We have over 100 boxes of scouting material in our archives which Al faithfully collected and stored for years before bringing it all to LHC. This material is a treasure and the largest collection of its kind in the area
Thanks to Al's hard work and dedication in the early years, LHC is a successful and vibrant organization today.
Click here to read Al's obituary.
We'll miss you, Al. Thank you for everything!