Merl Dean Koch entered this life on April 27, 1926 and departed for his home in heaven on December 8, 2019. He was born to Louis A. Koch and Reka Fischer Koch at the Koch home five miles south of Haxtun, Colorado. He was the youngest of three children. Merl attended Sunbeam Country School until he reached 8th grade. He often commented about riding his horse and bicycle to school. In 8th grade he began attending Haxtun Public Schools and started band. His chosen instrument was the trombone and he became a very skilled instrumentalist. Band was the highlight of his high school years. After graduation in 1943 he continued to attend summer band practices and occasionally directed the band. The summers of his teen years were spent with his cousin Patty who visited from Hickman, Nebraska. They would ride horses, do farm chores, and spend time singing together with brother Damon and sister Oletha.
Merl accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior during his high school years. It was a decision he never doubted. His faith was the bedrock of his life.
A few months following high school graduation Merl was struck by lightning as he rode his horse to bring cows in for evening milking. He received medical attention for many months after that incident. That same summer brother Damon was drafted into the Army to serve in the Air Corps and his father Louis was in a car wreck. Since Damon was gone and his father was laid up physically, Merl stayed on the farm and was not able to pursue college. He had intended to study music and become a band teacher.
Merl was drafted later and was rated 2C-F. 2C was an agricultural rating since Merl was needed on the farm; and F meant he was physically unfit because of the lightning strike.
One evening Merl went to a community choir practice and found Mary Ellen Gueck sitting on the church steps. Her father Reece Gueck had dropped her off early and she was waiting for the church doors to open. Merl introduced himself and asked Mary Ellen to go for a Coke right then and there . . . and the rest is history. Merl said he was comfortable with Mary Ellen from the start and knew she was “the one.”
Merl and Mary Ellen married September 19, 1948. Merl always said Mary was the “love of his life.” Four children were born to them: Beverly, Gary, Laurie and Joanie. He often told his children how pretty their mom was and how much he loved her.
Early in their marriage Merl and Mary Ellen determined to have a home that honored God. Reading Bible stories after breakfast and nighttime family prayers with the children were standard. The children knew he spent time in prayer for them and they often saw him studying his Bible. He was a founding member of the Berean Bible Church and helped in its construction and maintenance. He was a Sunday School teacher and deacon for many years. He also served on the Soil Conservation board as treasurer for two terms.
Merl loved music. Throughout his life he picked up his trombone, ran through a few scales and played songs he remembered. He also loved to sing and was involved in church music, cantatas, and countless solos at weddings and funerals.
Like his father Louis, Merl liked to joke with people. He often teased his children by telling people, “I have four kids and three of them turned out pretty good,” which left his children wondering. He loved back-scratches, sunrises, cookies and milk, a good hamburger, shrimp, and having his family visit.
On August 24, 2018 Merl and son Gary received the Colorado Centennial Farm-Ranch Award. For a man who spent his life on that farm, this was a highlight in his life. Merl knew the farm when it had few buildings and only sapling trees. With his family he survived the Dust Bowl and Depression, later he experienced abundant crops and hail storms and drought. He accepted responsibility for that farm in 1948. Merl and Mary Ellen reared their four children there and Merl later replaced the original homestead house. The farm was later passed to his son Gary and Merl assumed a more advisory and assistant role. Throughout his life he remarked that he was happy to be a farmer-rancher.
He enjoyed solitary hours on the tractor and combine, the beauty of growing crops and the changing seasons. His Angus cattle were his pets. He especially doted on the Angus bulls. The cattle would walk toward his pickup when they saw it coming through the pasture, knowing Merl would talk to them, scratch their backs and give them a bucket of grain. His friend, Bob Martin, shared his love of cattle and they often called each other in the evenings to talk about their herds and the Angus Journal.
Merl loved the Lord, his family, his cattle, and music. He was a private man who felt things deeply. He spent his last days enjoying frequent drives to the farm, reading, talking to his cattle, and being with his wife and family. He felt privileged to have had a good life here on earth and was ready to meet his Savior.
Merl was preceded in death by his parents, sister Oletha Ensminger and brother Damon Koch. He leaves his wife Mary Ellen of 71 years; daughter Beverly and husband Dean Anderson of Maryville, Missouri; son Gary and wife Jeni Koch of Haxtun; daughter Laurie and husband Arlan Scholl of Holyoke; daughter Joanie and husband Mark Groshans of Holyoke; one grandson, Ryan (Ashley) Anderson; five granddaughters, Torrey Brown, Karin (Levi) Williamson, Kayte Koch, Leslie (Matt) Jordan, and Kaylee (Jacob) Woicik; 8 great grandsons and 3 great granddaughters; nephew Rick Ensminger and niece Margo Sauder, and countless friends. He will be remembered as a man who loved them and his Savior.
The Celebration of Life was held on Saturday, December 14, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. at the Berean Bible Church in Haxtun, Colorado with Jim Crist officiating. Memorials contributions can be made in honor of Merl to the Berean Bible Church or the Maranatha Bible Camp. Baucke Funeral Home directed the service.
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