Mary N. Koch

1917 - 2014


Mary N. Koch

October 26, 1917 – May 19, 2014

Mary Narcissa Johnson

Koch, 96, died at home on

May 19, 2014. She was born

in 1917, three years before

ratification of the 19th Amendment

gave women the right to

vote. She grew up in a large

extended family who assumed

that women were as capable as

men. Her grandmother, Molly Gilliam Johnson, opened a real

estate office to support her family in 1903.

Mary Koch was a descendent of the pioneer Gilliam

family. They came west from Raleigh, North Carolina via

wagon train in 1852. Her great grandfather was a mounted

Oregon Volunteer in the Indian wars of 1855-l856.

A native Walla Wallan, she attended the old Baker

Grammar School and graduated from Walla Walla High

School in 1935. The following year she entered Whitman

College. In 1940 she graduated from Whitman with a

B.A. in Classics (Greek and Latin), a minor in French and

a teaching certificate.

After college she took a job teaching English, Latin

and beginning science at Ritzville High School. In 1943

she married Floyd Koch, a Ritzville farmer. As a wife

and mother of four she was active in St. Mark’s Episcopal

Church, 4-H clubs, Girl Scouts and a children’s reading

program at the Ritzville Public Library.

In 1959, the family moved to Walla Walla where Mrs.

Koch taught Latin, French and Principles of Foreign Language

at Pioneer Junior High School for two years. She

then taught Latin, French and Humanities at Walla Walla

High School. Her Latin students held annual Roman

banquets in the school cafeteria, replete with togas, laurel

garlands and grape juice. Her French students held annual

French banquets and put on Punch and Judy puppet shows

in French.

In 1967, she received a Washington State Teachers

grant to study the evidence of Roman civilization in England.

The same year she received a Fulbright Scholarship

to study at the American Academy in Rome. She accepted

the Fulbright and went to Italy. A few years later she

received a National Defense Education Act grant to study

French at the University of Washington.

After retiring from teaching in 1978, she pursued her

interest in the preservation of historic buildings. Mrs.

Koch served on the Board responsible for the restoration

of the Kirkman House and creation of the Kirkman House

Museum from 1980 to 1990, and served as Board president

in 1988 and 1989. In the late 1970s she served on

the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation Board of


In the 1980s, she joined a group to save Green Park

Grade School, a rare example of Dutch Baroque architecture.

She later helped save Whitman College’s Conservatory

of Music (then named McDowell Hall) from being

torn down. Until recently, Mrs. Koch conducted architectural

walking tours for tourists and Whitman College

alumni groups.

In 2001, Mrs. Koch received the Sally Rodgers Lifelong

Achievement Award, given by the Whitman College

Alumni Association for “living a life that exemplifies the

liberal arts”.

Mrs. Koch was a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal

Church, Walla Walla Symphony, the Walla Walla chapter

of the Archaeological Institute of America, Walla Walla

Art Club, and the chapter A.D.P.E.O.

Mrs. Koch was preceded in death by her husband

Floyd Koch and her older brother John Johnson of Sacramento,

California. She is survived by children and sonsin-

law: Cecily Wright of Missoula, Montana; Gretchen

and Mike de Grasse of Walla Walla; Keith Koch of Missoula,

Montana; and Mary and Jon Campbell of Walla

Walla. She is also survived by four grandchildren, four

great grandchildren and nephew Richard Johnson, Tulare,


A celebration of her life will be held for friends and

family from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, 2014

at her home.

The family suggests that anyone interested in making

a donation in her memory please make checks payable to

the Blue Mountain Community Foundation for the Mary

N. Koch Memorial Scholarship Fund, BMCF, PO Box

603, Walla Walla, WA 99362.

Family and friends are welcome to write memories

and sign the online guestbook at www.mountainviewcolonialdewitt.


The above photo was taken in front of Billings Hall, Whitman College.


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