Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Kathy Koehler Honored as 7 Everyday Hero

 

February 19, 2020

Courtesy Photo

Following a nomination by Leonard Sitongia (right), Kathy Koehler (left) is honored as 7 Everyday Hero

When a Channel 7 News crew showed up on Second Avenue on Saturday, January 28th, Kathy Koehler was ready to give them a tour of the Fire House Museum and an overview of Niwot's history. Little did she know they weren't there for the town--they were there for her.

"I've volunteered with Kathy on the board of the Niwot Historical Society and Niwot Community Association," said Leonard Sitongia. "I think she volunteers with just about every organization in Niwot. Her volunteering is on a heroic scale."

The depth of her community involvement is what inspired Sitongia to nominate Koehler as a 7 Everyday Hero. "I think Kathy's spirit is remarkable," Sitongia said. "She is warm and welcoming and can be funny and serious and is very smart. Her memory is remarkable... She is a vital part of the Niwot community."

Koehler has lived and volunteered in Niwot since 1972, when there were still dirt streets downtown. She has served in many roles over the years, most recently as Niwot Historical Society President, board member of the Niwot Community Association and Left Hand Grange No.9, NCA liaison to the Niwot Business Association, member of the Niwot Patriotic Cookie Moms, and frequent volunteer at Rock & Rails summer concert series. She was also recently appointed to the Niwot Design Review Committee.

Her connection to the community made the honor particularly special for Koehler.

"I have watched former Channel 7 News anchor Mitch Jelniker recognize dedicated volunteers for many years," said Koehler. "Viewing those presentations was always special because I knew Mitch when he was a student at Niwot High School," said Koehler. She was particularly touched that 15 members of the NCA and NHS, a daughter, and her sister were all there to witness the honor.

Of all her diverse roles, Koehler is probably best known for her work with the historical society.

"I became involved in the Niwot Historical Society toward the end of Anne Dyni's term of leadership," said Koehler, "eventually working on the newsletters, lecture committee, then membership chair... When Meri [Gibb] was retiring and no one else wanted the 'presidential shoes' I decided to see if they were a fit."

Koehler is now serving her fifth year as president of the NHS. She reiterated her appreciation for the support of the board in preserving and sharing Niwot's history.

It was under Koehler's leadership that Niwot's Fire House Museum was born. "The Fire House Museum restoration project was a major undertaking with much appreciated support from NHS members, Niwot organizations, community residents, business owners, friends, family, Felicia Santelli and Karlyn Spreder's fundraising work," said Koehler.

Restoration work included adding age appropriate skirting and corner boards, siding, window trim, paint, lighting, and interpretative panels inside and out. The Fire Cart was also relocated to its present site on 2nd Avenue, complete with a flagstone patio, feature lighting, and a custom wrought iron fence.

The fire cart dates back to 1910, when a boom in building and development motivated Niwot residents to help protect their investments. Like the Fire House Museum, the original Fire House was a community effort. Volunteers pitched in to build the structure to protect their new cart from the elements.

"I think the Museum is like a little model of Niwot's history," said Sitongia. "Since becoming the Museum, it really is the focus of Niwot history. It can't hold a lot, but what is there is important and it is concentrated with information."

In 2017, the cart was honored as one of Colorado's Top Ten Artifacts.

Koehler encourages other community members to get involved in Niwot's history by donating artifacts, signing up for an NHS membership, attending the Now & Then Lecture Series, and touring the Fire House Museum during special events. People can also sponsor the NHS with their historic photo lease program, which allows people to lease or buy historic photos to display in their homes or businesses.

"I believe being a diverse volunteer helps you to be more valuable to the organizations in which you are involved," said Koehler. "And it is wonderful to make amazing new friends in the process of contributing to our Niwot community."

You can watch the full Channel 7 News clip here.

 

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