Obituary: Kathryn Koch
January 5, 1946 – December 18, 2020
Kathryn Koch was born and grew up in Palo Alto, California before it became the computer and internet center of the world. At the age of 23 in 1969, she moved to Aspen with her husband and infant daughter, Megan Twitchell. It took a couple of years for her to get used to the pace and excitement of Aspen. To paraphrase the words of William Wordsworth, “bliss was it to be alive” and be 23 years old in 1969, but finding and living in Aspen” in 1969 was very heaven!”
She began her remarkable sojourn with the City of Aspen on January 1, 1971, as the secretary of the Chief of Police. In 1974 the City Council changed the City Clerk’s job from an elected office to an appointed position. She presented herself to the Stacy Stanley City Council in 1974, and said, “I would be perfect for the Clerk’s position,” and she was hired on the spot. Kathryn served eight mayors over the course of 40 years bridging 5 decades. She was the guide, advisor, historian and conscience for the mayors and Council members. She did her best to keep that litany of mayors (Standley, Edel, Stirling, Bennett, Klanderud, Richards, Ireland, and Skadron) out of trouble, as best she could, knowing how headstrong, irascible and centric these men and women could sometimes be. Without a buzzer or an alarm clock, she tried her best to control the Mayors’ air time with gentle nods and the rolling of her eyeballs.
Kathryn had two absolutely critical responsibilities as the City Clerk: she was the majordomo for all City elections and the Secretary and archivist for all the City Council meetings, as well as the meetings of most other City Council, appointed volunteer commissions from the Historic to the Wheeler to Planning and Zoning and everything in between. She had an amazing memory for the myriad of resolutions, ordinances, proclamations, actions, and decision- making over the years. Each mayor would meet privately twice a month at least to set the meeting agendas, so that all notices and issues to be discussed would follow precisely all the rules and regs of the City to the T. As former mayor John Bennett, said, “we turned to her so many times for advice, to tap into her institutional memory and for technical details. She taught us when to have a voice vote or a hand vote on ordinances.” She just helped each mayor figure it all out!
For the most part, she succeeded in keeping the mayors and Council members out of trouble. She was so smart, had a great sense of humor and yet was modest and low-key at the same time. She was a classic example of the important role the chief of elections is at every level of government. She oversaw every form of voting imaginable: in person, absentee, early, mail-in and even ranked-choice voting. Those long election nights in the City Council chambers were made humorous and engaging by Kathryn’s upbeat attitude and personality, no matter how many pundits were in the Council Chambers seeking to make comments and often wishing for different outcomes.
She was a voracious reader and was a member of long-standing book clubs. She was a walker and could be seen meandering throughout the West End during lunch hours. She loved to travel to exotic and interesting places all over the world. She knitted and loved wearing her own beautifully knitted sweaters. Not surprising, as she was so intellectual and interested in the world, she was an inveterate attendee at the Aspen Music Festival. She and her late husband, John, always sat in the Music Tent in the same section, same seats and in the same row without fail. What wonderful creatures of habit they were. She volunteered her spare time to various non-profits and loved working especially with the City Council’s decision-making process regarding the Wheeler Transfer Tax arts organization grants. She was our connection to City Hall, not only during our periods of service but on and off in the years going forward.
The love of her life and best friend, John Koch, died earlier this year. He too was a voracious reader and lover of the classical musical. Kathryn is survived by her daughter Megan Twichell, and her grandchildren, Henry, Amelia and Sam. At this time no service is planned. The family welcomes donations anyone might want to make in Kathryn’s name to any non-profit of choice.
She and John lived in Midland Park, virtually the very first Affordable Housing neighborhood in Aspen. She was an essential and integral part of the fabric of Aspen’s character, and will always be up there with her late husband, John, in the Pantheon of all-time great Aspen Characters!
Inspired by Pam Cunningham and Megan Twitchell. Written by Bill Stirling on the winter Solstice 2020 in memory of his long friend.
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