Mary Clementine Robinson Koch

Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
Death 21 Dec 1990 (aged 83)
Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas, USA
Burial Cremated
Memorial ID 192808734 · View Source
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Wichita Eagle, The (KS) - Sunday, December 23, 1990
Mary Koch, one of Wichita's most prominent philanthropists and art patrons, died Friday evening from complications resulting from a stroke she had suffered the day before.
She was 83.
The matriarch of Koch Industries, one of the nation's largest privately held companies, Mrs. Koch left an indelible mark in virtually every facet of the Wichita arts community.
''I think this city will never be the same because of Mary Koch, and we'll miss her desperately," said long-time friend Helen Galloway. "Mary loved the arts, and she and her foundation caused many wonderful things to come to Wichita that would never have come otherwise."
The wife of Koch Industries founder Fred Koch gave millions of dollars to such cultural institutions as the Wichita Center for the Arts, the Wichita Art Museum, the Metropolitan Ballet of Wichita, the Kansas Arts Commission, Wichita Children's Theater and the Wichita Symphony Society.
''She loved the arts, and that meant all the arts," said Virginia Mastio, chairman of the board of trustees of the Wichita Center for the Arts. "At the art center, I can walk through the halls and I can look through the cases, and her presence is everywhere.
''Every time I turn around there's something that she made happen or that she gave personally."
The daughter of a prominent surgeon, Mary Clementine Robinson went with a group of friends to a polo match in her hometown of Kansas City, Mo., one day in 1932.
There, on the polo field after the match, she met Fred Koch, a rising young oilman who had built refineries all over the world. One month later, they were married, and embarked on a seven-month honeymoon to the Caribbean, South America and Africa.
While in Africa, Fred shot a pair of leopards, which he brought home to Wichita to make a fur coat. Mary Koch would later bag a few leopards of her own.
''The thing that struck me about Mary was the fact that she was a lady, and she was very much in the arts, and she was very cultured," said Sterling Varner, a family friend who worked for Koch Industries for 40 years. "But on the other side of her, she really enjoyed the outdoors."
Mary's father was an avid hunter, and she shared his love of the sport. She talked about the excitement of "roughing it" in a 1964 article of the Wichita Eagle.
''There are no comforts of home, such as beauty parlors," she said. "If you want to get your hair done, you wash it in a plastic basin, often with river water if it isn't too muddy.
''You can't get your nails done or run into town whenever you please. You live in a safari kit khaki shirt, pants, hunting jacket and boots."
But Mrs. Koch admitted to a certain ambivalence about hunting.
''Whenever I shot at an animal, I was always torn between making a fine shot to get a good trophy and seeing a beautiful animal dead," she said in that 1964 story.
One of Fred Koch's favorite stories, Varner said, was about the time some agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation came out to visit.
''They were going to shoot target practice with pistols," he said, "and Mary was the best shot of the group."
But that was really no surprise to the people who knew her. She was good at everything she did, they said.
''She was a woman of all seasons," said Constance Witterman, a family friend for more than 40 years. "She was cultured, refined, intellectual, athletic . . . she was everything all rolled up into one."
An English and French major at Wellesley College, Mrs. Koch loved to paint. But she soon gave up the hobby.
''I didn't think my paintings were good enough in comparison to hang on our walls," she said in a 1972 interview.
But then, she was up against some pretty daunting competition: one of the paintings was by Thomas Hart Benton, another by Renoir.
Mrs. Koch took up silversmithing, taking classes at the art association. She became an accomplished craftsman, often using jewels brought home by her husband.
''I enjoy the feel of metal, of constructing something with my own hands," she said in a 1972 article of the Wichita Eagle.
Mary Koch instilled an appreciation of art in each of her four sons: Frederick, Charles, William and David.
''It was fortunate for the arts that someone of her sensitivities could have the influence on the arts that she did," Mastio said.
''She was a gentle person and did not understand her power, I don't think. She really, I don't think, fully understood how much she made a difference by just being herself."
Charles Koch assumed the chairmanship of Koch Industries when Fred Koch died of a heart attack in 1967, and he along with his brother David are now the principal owners of the company.
Although she remained involved in decisions affecting the company, Mary Koch turned most of her attention to the local arts community.
The National Society of Fund Raising Executives named her Outstanding Philanthropist in 1983. A year later, she was honored by the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center/National Asthma Center as the Wichita Philanthropist of the Year.
In 1988, she received the Wichita/Sedgwick County Arts and Humanities Council Art Recognition Award in 1988. Mrs. Koch, Olive Ann Beech and Gladys Wiedemann were honored for their lifelong contributions to the Wichita Center for the Arts at a black tie reception in May.
''Mary was so beautiful that night," Mastio said. "She just looked gorgeous. She just enjoyed it. That was all we wanted them to do."
Mrs. Koch suffered a mild stroke a year ago, and her health had been deteriorating in recent months. She entered Wesley Medical Center on Wednesday for a check-up, and suffered a stroke the next day.
Hospital officials said she died at 7 p.m. Friday.
Mrs. Koch's death shocked those who knew her.
''We just saw her two or three days ago, and she was wonderful," Galloway said. "You rarely meet in life someone quite like her."
The Koch family did not issue a statement.
In addition to her four sons, Mary Koch is survived by three grandchildren, and two brothers: William Robinson of Wichita and Ernest Kip Robinson of Kansas City, Mo.
Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. today at the Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 1958 N. Webb Road. Broadway Mortuary is in charge of arrangements.
A memorial has been established in the name of Mary R. Koch at the Wichita Center for the Arts.

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  • Created by: civilwarbuff
  • Added: 2 Sep 2018
  • Find A Grave Memorial 192808734
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mary Clementine Robinson Koch (17 Oct 1907–21 Dec 1990), Find A Grave Memorial no. 192808734, ; Maintained by civilwarbuff (contributor 47049540) Cremated.