A chapter has closed in our family history with the passing of our beloved Mother, Alma C. Koch, of New Tripoli. As night deepened on Monday, September 13, 2021, she died peacefully at Cornerstone Living in Werley’s Corner, Pa., after a brief illness. She had been a resident there for the past 8 months. She was 91.
Alma Catherine (Fister) Koch was born in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania on June 15, 1930 to the late Edwin J. and Margaret E. (Howerter) Fister and was the last surviving member of her large family. She was born in the family homestead and spent the first six years of her life there, where she spoke only Pennsylvania Dutch. It wasn’t until her parents moved the family into New Tripoli to become the Sextons at Ebenezer Union Church, that she began school and learned English. She would forever after jokingly refer to this three-mile-relocation as her move to “the big city.”
She never let us forget that, as a child she, along with her Mother, had surely earned their places in heaven by spending every Saturday morning dusting and polishing the church pews for the Sunday morning services at Ebenezer Church. But her favorite job as a child was being responsible for refilling the brass ring supply on the Merry-go-Round at Ontelaunee Park; a place of many fond memories.
She began her schooling in the two-room schoolhouse of New Tripoli under the tutelage of Florence Rapp, and then Oscar Henry. At the time of her passing she was one of a dwindling number of rural residents from the upper tier of Lehigh and Berks Counties who as students rode the train affectionally known as “The Berksy” back and forth daily to high school in Slatington, and from whose high school she graduated in 1948.
She met our father, Kenneth Koch of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, and they were married in Slatington by the Rev. Thomas Bachman on June 19, 1949. He remained the love of her life from the moment she met him, until the day that she died. He passed away in 2015, after 66 years of marriage. There were four children born to this union.
After a short period where they were both employed at Raycraft Textiles in Lehighton, the family moved back to New Tripoli where Alma was a devoted homemaker. She grew large gardens to feed her growing family, was a wonderful cook and baker, and learned how to stretch the family’s very few resources, a very long way. She was well known for her annual mass production of fastnachts for Shrove Tuesday, and also for her shoo-fly pies.
Alma was a loving and devoted wife to Kenny, and a loving mother to her four children. She was a member of New Life Lutheran Church, New Tripoli, and before that, Ebenezer UCC, where for many years she taught the Primary Sunday School class.
For a great many years, she served as the President of the Ladies Auxiliary of the New Tripoli Volunteer Fire Company where she, along with many of her friends and relatives, regularly prepared vast amounts of authentic home-style Pennsylvania Dutch foods, cakes, and pies, that were enjoyed by the thousands of appreciative banqueters that they served throughout the years.
Alma had an encyclopedic memory of the people, places, and events of the little corner of Lehigh County in which she lived. And until almost the very end could call up facts about almost any subject that she was being quizzed about. In her final years, reminiscing about the past was one of the few things that still brought her great joy. She was also an ardent enthusiast, and intrepid explorer, with her son, on cemetery genealogy hunts, as they searched for their long-lost relatives.
Alma was an avid reader, and also spent many happy hours knitting, crocheting, and doing needlepoint. She enjoyed retirement with our father immensely, and they were always on the go. She spent many happy summers in Beach Haven, NJ, and always enjoyed her visits to San Francisco, where she explored the city with gusto.
Alma is survived by her children, Bonnie L. Bleiler and husband Richard, of Lynnville, Pa, Kenneth E. and wife Shirley, of Laurinburg, NC, Glenn D. and partner Daniel Nickel, of Walnut Creek, Ca, and Valerie A. Fegley and husband Danny, of Macungie, Pa. She is also survived by grandchildren, Seth Bleiler and wife Maria, of Walnut Creek, Ca, Christian Bleiler and wife Natasha, and Liz Paris, all of Lynnville, Pa., Joshua Koch of Lexington, Ky., Allison Gamblin, of Odenton, Md., and Paxton Werley of Fogelsville, Pa., and by great grandchildren Benjamin and Angela Bleiler, Claire, Julie, and Barret Bleiler, Lila and Mia Paris, Michael, Tristan, Gretchen, and Ethan Koch, and by Arwen Duncan. She is also survived by a great many nieces and nephews who she loved dearly, and by her lifelong friend since childhood, Elaine Peter, of New Tripoli, Pa. She was predeceased by her parents, and by brothers Paul, Ralph, George, and Bill Fister, and sister Eleanor Snyder.
Alma’s Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 11:00 AM in the New Life Evangelical Lutheran Church, 6804 Weiss Road New Tripoli, PA. 18066. The family will receive friends from 10:30-11:00 AM. There will be a private interment in Ebenezer Union Cemetery. Pastor Lauren Applegate will officiate.
Donations may be made in her memory to the New Life Evangelical Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 34 New Tripoli, PA. 18066, or the Lynn-Heidelberg Historical Society, P.O. Box 73, New Tripoli, PA 18066.
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