William Joseph Koch was known to his friends as “Bill” and grandsons as “Bumpa.” He was born in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City May 28, 1919, to August and Beatrice Koch. He had three sisters, Anne, Catherine and Bernadette.
Bill didn’t have much in terms of material possessions growing up, but that instilled in him a great work ethic. He recalled that his first “job” was putting caps on home-brewed beer bottles when he was 8 years old. He quit school at age 13 to support his family, working in a grocery store. Bill also had part-time jobs working with horses at Aqueduct Racetrack and raising homing pigeons on the roof of his family’s apartment in Queens.
Bill enlisted in the U.S. Army and was part of the Army War Show, which traveled the country in 1942 to show off the U.S. military might, raising money for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. He did tours of duty in the Philippines and Korea, attaining the rank of sergeant.
After World War II, he returned to Queens and enrolled in McAllister College of Embalming, from which he graduated cum laude in 1949 as an embalmer and funeral director. During this time he met Lillian C. Gibbons of Floral Park and they were wed in 1947. They had two children, William Gregory Koch of Maine (deceased) and Barbaraellen Koch of Riverhead.
He put his funeral directing career on hold and went to work for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York City as a salesman, manager and investigator for 25 years. When he retired in 1982 to the home he built for himself and his wife on the shorefront of Lake Panamoka in Ridge, he took out his funeral director’s license, dusted off his black suits and started working for various funeral homes on the East End of Long Island. He continued to do so until he was 94.
One of his favorite expressions was “Tell the truth and shame the devil!”
He died peacefully April 24 at his home in Calverton due to age-related health issues. His home health aide, Nana, was at his side.
Bill was predeceased by his wife, Lillian, in 2007 and his son, William “Billy,” in 2015. He is survived by his daughter, Barbaraellen Koch, and her husband, Bert Vogel of Riverhead; his grandsons Austen and Spenser Vogel; and grandsons Cory Koch and his wife, Anne Esquerra, and Gregory Koch and his fiancée, Samantha Waite, and their mother, Billie Rae Koch of Maine.
A graveside military service and burial will take place Friday, April 28, at Calverton National Cemetery, where his wife is interred.
Arrangements were entrusted to McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead.
This is a paid notice.