Kohler P. McInnis | PostIndependent.com

Kohler P. McInnis

Kohler P. McInnis

Born of a Colorado pioneer family, as they said in those days, “Good Stock,” Kohler McInnis was blessed with a life of family and friends. The Kohler family had come to Colorado in the early 1880s to ranch where the present CU campus is in Boulder, Colorado. The Kohler Ranch was productive and a successful cattle and banking operation leading to many years of happiness and prosperity. Dad’s mother, Helen, was very special and while in college fell in love with Emmett McInnis, a young attorney and businessman. They married and were soon the parents of four children: Emmett, Dad (Kohler), Mary and Helen. They enjoyed the dreams of raising a family; however, happy days were not to last. The early days brought horrible tragedy to the young family with the loss of Helen, the children’s mother, during the birth of his sister, Helen. A couple of years later the baby child, Helen, died when she swallowed a Christmas bulb at the Christmas tree. Our Dad’s father was grief stricken and broken-hearted. It was hard for him to move on, but he started by having his mother step in to assist with the raising of the three remaining children while he focused on his work as an executive with the Santa Fe Railroad.The days of Dad’s youth were filled with a loving grandmother and a father who wanted so much to find the warmth of love again; the summer camps, the Colorado ranch and the many tag along business trips with Dad’s father throughout the country.Dad’s father insisted on a formal upbringing with focus on study and manners, but his grandmother, quite the character, allowed the kids to be kids and early on made sure humor was instilled in the children’s personality. From that came a perfect melding of manners with orneriness that shaped Dad’s personality. Dad was a good student, a hard worker and always had a passion for the outdoors, spending whatever time he could on the lake or in the mountains. Dad loved practical jokes and had a real twinkle in his eye. With his father focusing on business in Chicago, Dad attended Lake Forest Academy in Evanston, Illinois, and he enjoyed frequent trips back to the Colorado family ranch in Boulder.Dad always admired his older brother, Emmett, and thought his sister, Mary (Micki), had magic in her personality. They had that special lifetime bond that emerged after the loss of their mom and sister.Upon graduation, Dad was off to Colorado and Colorado University for the study of business. His older brother was in law school, and his younger sister was soon to follow him to Colorado University. Not long into his college days, he took a fancy to a fine young lady named Carol Krier who was also attending CU. She was one of five daughters who came from a prominent family of many generations in Southern Colorado. They danced, studied and laughed together as they fell deeply in love with each other and made plans for a future together. They found their own definition of romance through their many adventures. Later in life they would admit to showing up to well-attended events at the university and proceeding to the parking lot to find an unlocked car to “smooch.” Dad met Mom’s family, and the feeling of admiration from both sides would last their respective lifetimes.Not in the plans were the drums of war, and after Pearl Harbor, Dad was anxious to enlist and fight for the country we all so deeply care about. Mom felt the call as well and went to work as a chemist for the government. Dad was off to basic training, then officer’s training and on to flight school where he earned his “wings.” Next was the B-29 assignment, and he was off to war.It was not long before Dad was stationed overseas on the Island of Guam, where he was assigned to bombing missions over Japan. These missions would involve long flights completely dependent on studious navigation both to the target and more importantly back to the small island of Guam, generally arriving with one or two engines inoperable as they were out of fuel. Dad used to say it was hours of boredom and “then moments of sheer terror with the anti-aircraft flak all around them,” and then, back to hours of boredom to be followed by the anxious gazing for that island out there somewhere. War is hell, and Dad’s experience was no different than so many others who lost many friends and had the daily fear of the loss of the war. Dad felt so strongly about the values of the United States that he never doubted the necessity of the missions. The assignments brought strong comradeship with these young men, and they had their fun moments and often talked of dreams once they got to go home. Dad rarely spoke of the War and was embarrassed with the “Hero” label or the “Greatest Generation” label, saying it was a duty and a privilege, “a part of growing up.”Dad’s patriotism was intense. It was reflected by one of his last requests while he had the strength to speak. He reached out to Mom’s hand and asked her to say the Pledge of Allegiance with him followed by the Our Father prayer. The Fountains Assisted Living facility, which he and Mom so enjoyed, allowed him to have a flagpole installed in front of their cottage where he flew the flag every day.The words “absence makes the heart grow fonder” fit these two lovers perfectly.The affection and passion they felt as loves and lovers was reflected by the many letters exchanged between them during the years of separation. These letters were the subject of the front page article in the Daily Sentinel published on Valentine’s Day a couple of years back. These letters have been preserved by the family for future generations. In Dad’s last hours he quietly sang to Mom those beautiful, thoughtful songs he and Mom shared – “Kiss me once and kiss me twice … , “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places …” and “Hello Dolly.”Dad and Mom spoke of the day the news was received that the war was over and that we prevailed. Dad would get to come home to his future bride. Before he could come home, though, he would first continue to fly missions so high-ranking officers could observe the atomic bomb sites; This mission lasted over a few months, and then he was re-assigned back to the States. He loved the story about how he and his flight mates would fill the bomb bay with bottles of whisky, buying on one landing and selling on the next, hoping to get a financial start on their future business careers!It was not long before he was back to the coast, given a train ticket and sent home.Oh the description and twinkle in his eyes as he talked of that hug with his sweetheart and back to the laughter, dancing and then on to the altar and a marriage of over 66 years, defined by family, love, respect and friendship.As Mom and Dad planned their future they knew one thing for sure and that was despite pressure for Dad to join the executive ranks of corporate America, their destiny was to stay in the mountains of Colorado. A wonderful marriage in Walsenburg, Colo., and a fabulous lifelong relationship to the Krier, McInnis, Kohler, Geiger, Small, Santi and Donnelly families brought many, many years of happiness. As a newly married couple, they went on to finish school in Boulder and then on to Colorado Springs for training for Goodrich Tires. Of course, before too long came the first child of six, a son, Michael, and did they ever “dote” on him. With Mom at home, Dad traveled throughout the rural parts of the state representing Goodrich.The stories he would tell of that summer with “life on the road,” stopping in the small towns, staying in the “two floor hotel in the town squares” and sitting on the balcony at night visiting away until it would cool off enough to go to bed. Dad really did like the challenge of business, and Goodrich was a good training ground for him. After a couple of years, Goodrich wanted Dad to focus on his management skills for the purpose of moving up through the ranks, but Dad and Mom didn’t want the city. They loved the country life. They were convinced their hearts belonged in small town Colorado. Their search began for what and where that would that be.Mom’s parents were affectionately referred to as Momma Ceil and Daddy Paul.Daddy Paul was in the hardware, banking and theatre business. He became a trusted advisor and friend of Dad’s, advising him to look into the up and coming franchise of hardware stores called “Gambles.” Dad believed that this would be a solid platform to branch into other investments in a small community. Dad and Mom pursued this opportunity and soon joined the Geiger family in a partnership opening a store in a little sleepy town called Glenwood Springs. The Gambles store opened on Main Street and would be operated for many years by Dad along with his many employees, who included the mother and son team of Mary and Joe Alessandri, and his trusted bookkeeper, Yvonne Hobbs. Through the store Dad saw the need for the appliance business as the valley grew from Aspen to Vail and over the years sold thousands of freezers, washers, and stoves, etc.In later years as their children obtained driver’s licenses, they were assigned delivery trucks and work schedules every day after school. The store was expanded and the sales grew. Early on, Dad set high standards for his business and set this example: He drove home the philosophy that the customer was king and was to be treated as such.Dad also enjoyed banking and finance and was an incorporator of the Glenwood Industrial Bank and later did the same with the Bank of Glenwood, where he would follow Pat Bell as chairman of the board. It was during this same time that he also met his very close friend Bruce Robinson. When they sold the bank to Colorado National Bank in later years, Dad was asked to remain on as chairman, which he did for a number of years. Dad’s hard work paid off and he chose to sell the Gambles business in the late ’70s to the Skamsted family, of whom he thought highly. Dad remained active after that with various investments. Not long after the sale of the business they purchased a winter home in St. George, Utah. This was something they truly enjoyed and shared with many of their friends and family over the years.Dad and Mom were very involved with their community, St. Stephen Catholic Parish, the Catholic school, the dinner club, the Glenwood Navy (you could write a fun book on this one), the bridge games and of course the pasture that became the West Glenwood Golf Course. Dad served as chairman on the hospital board, chairman of the Senior Housing board and was a 50-year-plus member of the Lions Club. Important to Dad and Mom were the many strong and wonderful friendships: many of them started in those early days and continue today. While too many to mention all, a few that come to mind – the Andersons, Delaneys, Vanderhoofs, Bells, Bolithos, Collins, Benzels, Coryells, Worrells, Days, Mincers, Boscos, Fischers, Williamses, McFaddens, Beatties, Larsons, Petres, Qucklies, Diemozes, Bullocks, Stewarts, McKinleys, Massaros, Reeves, Stublers, Chucs, Veltuses, Proutys, Hubbards, Dodsons, Valasquez and the list goes on and on as Dad and Mom would describe them – “just plain good-hearted and caring people.” There was rafting and golf in the summer, hunting in the fall and skiing in the winter. They were never bored. The life and family in Glenwood provided the fulfillment of their dreams.Family was always at the core of Dad’s and Mom’s life. Following their first child Mike, the second son, Scott, soon arrived and then the third son, Kohler, and then it shifted to the girls with Kathy, to be followed by Patty and Care’. Dad and Mom would have 37 years of children in the home before they empty nested with Care’s graduation from high school. In years to follow there would be the additions of great sons- and daughters-in-law then the grandchildren starting with Christopher and continuing for 18 more, then the great-grandchildren (five so far). To house the “crew,” Dad and Mom built a home in West Glenwood on Sunny Acres Hill. Dad would fondly remember that their original loan for the home and the lot was for $6,150 and they thought it would break them. It was here they joined with friends to build the West Glenwood nine-hole golf course, which became a central activity for them (in the winter Dad would hit ice cubes off the snow in order to improve his golf game). It was a great place for our family home as there was the mountain in the back for hikes and caves to explore and the Flat Tops up on top. The home served many a purpose with friends, hobbies, dogs (they loved their dogs), rabbits, goats, snakes, boy and girl scouts, the mountain sheep and even a temporary slot machine casino set up by his teenage boys and their best friend. They lived in the family home for over 50 years, and these years brought many precious times.Raising that pack of kids was something. Dad and Mom expected the boys to be gentlemen and the girls to be ladies. This, for example, meant the girls got to shower first (30 gallon hot water tank) then the boys got the cold showers!! Or the first picks at the meals!! And of course the boys had to open the doors for their sisters and mother – oh brother! The girls did perfectly in school and the boys not so well. The girls picked up on manners right away but the boys seemed to draw a blank to the extent that Dad and Mom actually hired a “manners lady” to live with the family. It worked for a week until the lady left in the middle of the night because she couldn’t handle them.Finally, Dad and Mom recruited Sister Viola Mary to let them have it. That worked!Later, they sent two of the boys to a Military School in Kansas for a little “tune up,” so to speak. Dad and Mom let it be known early on that you earned your keep with chores, and when you were old enough you were expected to find a job. “Builds the character,” they would say. This approach developed a strong work ethic with the children as well as an understanding that if “you want it, you work for it!” Piggy banks were given to each child, and being thrifty was the order of operation. Love for the outdoors and deep passion for citizenship were drilled in every day and, of course, church on Sundays and the family Sunday dinner (grilled in the summer) were mandated as were family sit down dinners during the week. Dad and Mom were devoted to and respected each child encouraging them to pursue their dreams.For Dad and Mom the family came first, and they felt it begin with the strength of their relationship with each other. They ardently admired and respected each other and shared a “spark” about life. If you were around them much at all you picked up that enthusiasm as well. Sometimes out of the blue they were off to rafting in the river, riding down Vail Pass, cross-country skiing, camping or watching the elk that frequented the property. Every night when Dad would arrive home from work (you could hear his truck engine in the distance as he came up the hill), he and Mom would sit and have a drink, talking about the day and just enjoying each other’s company.From the first warm day in the spring to the last one in the late fall, they would sit on their patio and take advantage of their spectacular views of Sopris, Storm King or Red Mountain. Life was good and they lived it, but as with all of us, the years moved them into their 80s and with many tears they made the tough decision to leave the hill (the memories) for a move to Grand Junction, where three of the children’s families resided.The years in Grand Junction served them very well. They had their health and were able to continue their hikes, golf, walks with the dog and long rides in the countryside. The new home was a cottage on the campus of the Hilltop assisted living facility (Fountains), which they enjoyed. After a few years it became necessary to move to the larger facility (The Commons – another Hilltop unit) where they also enjoyed their apartment and the new neighbors. One has to add here that Hilltop ran a first-class operation, and the folks really enjoyed their new homes and Grand Junction.Of course it helped to have friends like Joe and Geri Kendrick who introduced them to the area and to many of their friends. Joe introduced Dad to his coffee pals Paul Coe, Russ Beechman, Klaus Schattleitner and Roy Combs. These fellows had many great coffees, which included the coffee game where quarters would often change hands with the “game!” This motley crew was served by Kim Ambriz, who was always so kind and thoughtful of Dad. Larry and Linda Bennett made sure Mom and Dad got lots of attention as did so many of their friends at the Commons and the Fountains.Dad had that sparkle of life, that twinkle in the eye and he lived a full and happy life. Dad’s love for Mom and Mom’s love for Dad was complete and oh so happy. His rewards were measured by his loving large family and friends. Toward the end he felt he found his star and he did. He tipped his hat to the Keeper of the Stars!Dad’s health brought difficult challenges in the last several months and the kindness of many people was reflected by their many loving words and acts. Karen Townes, Mom and Dad’s personal caregiver, is due deep gratitude for her care of Dad. The visits by family including special ones by Barry and Darcy Croissant continued to bring out that sparkle in Dad. Dad’s friends were always there with an encouraging word and kind acts. The staffs at the Commons and the Fountains were outstanding and professional. Those doctors and nurses at Saint Mary’s Hospital were at the top of the league for their care. Dr. Lambert, in extending his hand to hold ours, demonstrated warmth, compassion and strength in the final stages. The best words to describe the Hospice staff are simply the House of Angels. The Callahan- Edfast Mortuary staff was respectful and attentive to the needs resulting from the loss.Kohler is survived by his loving wife, Carol; their children, Michael (Melissa and children, Christopher, Angie and Grady Cason (Dax and Drew) and Jenny and Bill Tyson (Tre); Scott (Lori and children Daxon, Tessa and Matt Canterberry (Rye); Andrea and Tony Pollack (Aspen and Avery); Kohler (Kathleen and children Koby, Kohler and Kiernan); Kathy Krey (Ed and children Sam, Alix); Patty Mcinnis-Cole (Bob and children, Silka, Bridger, Hayden and Breeze); Care’ McInnis (children Gracie, Annika, Ellie and Lucy); his brother, Emmett McInnis (Howardine and children, Bruce and Betsy (Micki); The Krier, Kohler, McInnis, Geiger, Small, Santi and Donnelly families. Dad was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Mary, nephews, Don and Doug Donnelly, nephew Howard McInnis, John and Shirley Small, John Geiger, Bob and Helen Kohler and Don Santi.A memorial service will be held in the Callahan-Edfast Mortuary Chapel on Saturday, April 7, 2012, at 10 a.m. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado, 3090B N. 12th St., Grand Junction, CO 81506.

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