Ezra (Ez) Koch began his life in Rhein, Saskatchewan, Canada on June 19, 1920. The eldest son of 9 children, he was the fifth offspring of Friedrich Koch, Sr. and Anna Katherine Beisel Koch. The Koch family emigrated to the Portland area in 1923 and shortly thereafter settled in McMinnville. Ezra attended Cook School, McMinnville Junior High and graduated from McMinnville High School on June 3, 1938 where he excelled on the basketball court, was voted Student Body President in his Senior year and selected Valedictorian for his graduating class. Ezra aspired to be a lawyer and wanted to attend Linfield College, but chose not to in order to manage the family garbage business.
Ezra always wanted to fly and to serve his country. So in 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp, doing his cadet training in Texas. He married Hanni Magda Seltmann of Portland on May 24, 1943 in the airbase Chapel at San Antonio TX. Ezra claimed that he "got his bride and wings on the same day." On his wedding day, Second Lieutenant Koch graduated from flight school 43-E and reported for active duty as Flight Commander for single engine fighter and twin engine bomber pilots at the San Antonio airbase. There he helped establish the twin engine training school for B-25 bombers, serving as flight instructor in Texas and Oklahoma for the remainder of the war. Returning to McMinnville after the war, he was active from 1946-51 in the Oregon Air National Guard serving as Flight Commander of Utility Squadron.
Ezra was deeply committed to his family as loving brother and husband, devoted dad and grandpa, provider, guide and encourager. He played a strong formative role in the lives of his children and grandchildren, emphasizing living up to one's potential and being a responsible contributor to society. One of his favorite slogans was: "Be part of the solution, not part of the problem." Ezra and Hanni together created a warm and welcoming "home away from home" for many college students, practicing the Christian disciplines of hospitality and generosity. He was a surrogate dad for many Linfield students over the years.
A man of deep Christian conviction, Ezra shared his faith through denominational and local church leadership. He was active in leadership positions in the State Baptist Convention as well as the First Baptist Church for over 40 years as moderator, deacon, and chair of the Board of Trustees and Sunday school teacher. He and Hanni were advisors to the college-age fellowship group at First Baptist for many years. Ezra was active in the National Prayer Breakfast movement on local, state and national levels as well as in Campus Crusade for Christ and Young Life at Linfield College. He is affectionately called "High Point's Hero" for his financial contribution initiating the High Point Ministries at the Nazarene Church on the Hill in McMinnville.
Ezra was a firm believer in the power of prayer to change people's lives. He and Hanni started their days together with scripture and prayer before he left for work in the morning. He carried his prayers with him on the garbage routes, lifting up those he knew were in need. Public prayer was an art form for Ez, both in church or civic settings or at family gatherings. His eloquent, heart-felt, and often long public prayers constantly reiterated the themes of thankfulness for all God's goodness, both in material and spiritual blessings, to him, his family and community. Gardening was another way he prayed and he often tearfully expressed his amazement at the stunning beauty of God's handiwork in the roses, azaleas and rhodies he lovingly cultivated in the backyard of the family home. It delighted him to share the little Cecil Brunner rose buds every Sunday morning with the ushers at First Baptist for their jacket lapels.
As a business leader, Ezra's impact has been felt both locally and nationally. He was President and/or CEO of City Sanitary Service for over 60 years, first working along side his brother Fred in that business and later Bob Emrick. He headed the Riverbend Landfill Co. until 1990 and was instrumental in founding what is now Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association. He was Vice President and Treasurer for Sunshine Dairy for over 30 years. Ezra was a co-founder and president of Oregon Sanitary Service Institute for 14 years, and served for 18 years as a board member and for two years as President of the National Solid Waste Management Association. He was asked to serve in various state and national capacities including the Governor's Committee on Migrant Education, the Oregon State Fair, and national Advisory Council to the Small Business Association.
Ezra served the community of McMinnville in many capacities over his life time. He was president of McMinnville Rotary Club and member for over 50 years. He served as president of the McMinnville Chamber of Commerce, and of United Good Neighbors. He was a member of McMinnville Industrial Promotions and of the McMinnville School Board. His civic contributions have been recognized by many awards: McMinnville Citizen of the Year Award in 1977; Oregon Business Leader of the Year in 1979; the Daughters of the American Revolution's Citizenship Award in 1980, the first non-U.S. born individual to be so honored; National Solid Waste Management Association Man of the Year in 1981; The Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship Award in 1986; Business Leader of the Year award from McMinnville's Chamber of Commerce in 1995. He was given the Key to the City of McMinnville by Mayor Ed Gormley in 2000. One of Ez's abiding joys was to the chair Yamhill County campaigns for Governor/ Senator Mark O. Hatfield and to serve on county and state Republican central committees.
An avid supporter of Christian higher education and college athletics, Ezra contributed much to Linfield College over his life, and later to George Fox College, both in time and financial resources. He served as co-chair of Linfield's Partners in Progress campaign for 13 years, was a member of the Linfield board of Trustees for 22 years, and official timekeeper for Linfield football games for over 50 years! He was a member of George Fox College/ Camp Tilikum Advisory Board for 16 years. In 1965 Ezra was inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame for his support of Linfield athletic programs and student-athletes and into Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2000, on the occasion of his retirement at age 80, he was awarded an Honorary Bachelor of Arts degree from Linfield.
Ezra Koch, simply speaking, was a pillar of the McMinnville community. He was an exemplar of ethical business practice and personal integrity, and a man of passion, definitive opinion and persuasive utterance. He was always humbly grateful for the opportunities to contribute and thrive which the community of McMinnville gave to him. Ez felt blessed by McMinnville, and therefore so eager to be a blessing to McMinnville. He put his faith into action by making a ministry out of hauling garbage, an opportunity to serve God and care for others. He never forgot what it was like to be poor, and to be suspect because he spoke German to his mother in the grocery store.
Ezra's philosophy of life was simply "leave it better than you found it." His whole life was committed to sharing the generosity and opportunities that God and McMinnville had given him. He will be cherished for his generosity and service, and remembered for his vision and energy, his leadership and warm hugs, and living a Christian life with joy and integrity. That legacy will continue to inspire us all and live on in our lives.
Ezra passed away peacefully at 6:00 AM on October 20, 2013. He is survived by his brother Fred Koch, Jr. of McMinnville, sister Laura Thompson of Tigard, and sister Lydia Zimmerman of Bakersfield, CA; by his five children: Douglas of Cambridge, MA (Maureen); David of McMinnville; Kathleen Costa of Beaverton; Dale of Hillsboro; and Dean of McMinnville (Joan); by 11 grandchildren: Eric (Jerilee), Matthew (Kendy), Andrew, Dominic, Edan, Jacob, Joseph, Kyrissa (Tyson), Anna, Sarah, and John; and by four great grandchildren: Ransom, Justus, Evangeline, and Jubilee. He was preceded in death by his father, Friedrich Koch, Sr.; his mother, Anna Katherine (Beisel) Koch; his beloved spouse of almost 66 years, Hanni Seltmann Koch; his sisters Erica Kaiser, Martha Johnson, Leah Sauer, and Mary Koch and brother Paul Koch.
Remembrance donations may be made to Young Life, Yamhill County or Camp Tilikum in care of Macy & Son.
A Memorial Celebration of Ezra's life and ministry will be held on Sunday, October 27 at 2:00 PM in the sanctuary of The Church on the Hill in McMinnville. Following the public interment at Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery, there will be a reception at The Church on the Hill. Public viewing will be held on Friday, October 25 from 4-7 PM and Saturday, October 26 from 10AM-1PM at the Chapel of Macy & Son. To leave online condolences, visit www.macyandson.com.