James Walter Koch
was born on November 12, 1941 in San Francisco and died in his
Briceland home in Humboldt County on May 21, 2022. He was 80 years
Jim leaves behind a community of friends in southern Humboldt County whose lives he touched with his generosity. His friends from San Francisco and Forks of Salmon, who knew Jim from way back when, remember his irrepressible enthusiasm for life, his readiness to help at a moment’s notice and his quick and easy laugh. He could light up a room.
Jim was a devoted and loving father; a faithful and steady partner, a highly skilled mechanic; a collector of useful stuff gleaned from San Francisco dumpsters over the course of 60 years. He gave generously of his time and his collection of stuff, from building materials and cookware, to Volkswagon parts and windows.
Jim on occasion loaded his four-speed, 1956 Chevy 20-foot flatbed truck, with a granny transmission (effectively giving that old truck 8 speeds), for bear. Brimming with salvaged windows, doors and other building materials, he chugged along from San Francisco to the narrows of the Forks of Salmon Road in Siskiyou County, with its twists and turns, sheer cliffs on one side and drops of dizzying heights to the river below on the other. On one of those epic trips, his partner, Kathleen Marshall, driving, came grill-to-grill with one of the many logging trucks hauling away the beloved trees the Salmon River community fought so hard to save. Imagine the push me/pull you of Dr. Seuss, and there were two trucks, one new, mighty and powerful, the other its powerful glory days faded, nose-to-nose, at an impasse. Of course, the eighteen-wheel logging truck had the right of way, and as the section of road was only one windy lane typical of back country roads, she had to back that fully loaded 20-foot truck out of the logger’s way. The terrifying first attempt to back up sent Kathleen flying out of the truck insisting that Jim take over. With his typical cocky confidence, Jim leaped into the cab, and gleefully and skillfully backed that sucker up along a few twists and turns of the road until he found a pullout that was barely able to keep the truck on that road, while letting that 18-wheeler by. Those maneuvers were typical of Jim’s capabilities and that adventure, among others, became great story fodder as the years went by.
He loved playing pinochle and hearts, spending many a raucous evening leaping from his chair and slapping those pinochle cards on the table, cackling, “Take that you suckers,” or laughingly conceding his losses. Jim was also an epic, balletic ping pong player, able to put some mean English on those ping pong balls while jumping, stooping and reaching, fiercely volleying with his ping pong buddy Ed Buryn and friends.
The day his son, Jordan, was born transformed Jim. He loved Jordan wholeheartedly from the moment he witnessed Jordan’s birth through the day he died. Jim took Jordan on many an adventure, from hitchhiking on Highway 101 to San Francisco and back, to camping in Hawaii and many a day spent at the river. He helped Jordan and Molly buy their first home in Austin, Texas, where they continue to live. He was proud of Jordan’s accomplishments and delighted in Jordan’s happiness and success. He was overjoyed to be Orion’s grandfather, despite the distance and the family’s inability to travel during the height of the Covid pandemic.
Jim’s most recent, favorite saying was “Of All the Things I’ve Lost I Miss My Mind the Most.”
Jim supported a number of local Humboldt County organizations, volunteering his time and skills over many years. He built a pizza oven used at Reggae on the River to raise funds for Beginnings in Briceland. He supported the Briceland Fire Department, KMUD Radio, the Garberville Community Park and Hospice.
A farewell memorial is being planned for the near future.
Jim Koch was preceded in death by both of his parents, Clelia Koch (neé Napolitano) aged 103, and Harry Walter Koch, aged 97. He is survived by his only child, Jordan Marshall Koch with his wife Molly Shetter and their son, Jim’s grandson, Orion. He is also survived by his long-time partner Katie McGuire of Redway and her children, Sione Shafer with her husband Zach Shafer of Rio Dell, and their children, Berretta (8) and Remington (1.5) who called Jim ‘Grandpa’; and Mika Coursan with his partner Amy Terrones of Redway.
Also mourning his loss is his former partner and mother of his child, Kathleen Marshall, of Arcata.
In the spirit of Jim’s generosity, we, his loved ones, ask that all friends make a memorial donation of any amount, small to large, to be divided equally between KMUD and the Briceland Volunteer Fire Department. Make your donations online at Hafoundation.org/JimKochMemorialFund or send checks to Humboldt Area Foundation, 363 Indianola Road, Bayside, CA 95524. TAX ID#23-7310660. HAF will manage the distribution of the fund.
Jim was well-loved and will be sorely missed.
The obituary above was submitted by Jim Koch’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.