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Born: December 30, 1947

Death: August 25, 2012

This memorial provided by:

Michael Henry Koehler

December 30, 1947  -  August 25, 2012
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Life Legacy

Michael Henry Koehler, affectionately known as “Michael Bear” to his loving family, was born on December 30, 1947 in Belleville, Illinois. In many ways he was ordinary; in many ways he was extraordinary. Like most people born in 1947 he was captivated by Mickey Mouse and the Three Stooges in the 50’s and the Beatles in the 60’s. He remained passionate about all three throughout his lifetime. Michael navigated through life using holidays as a means of reckoning. Like many of us his favorite times were holidays with his family, occasions on which he always stayed true to the time honored philosophy of life: “dance as if no one is watching, sing as if no one is listening.” To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it was said of Michael that he knew how to keep Christmas well. Michael’s enthusiasm for the holiday honoring the birth of Jesus was exceeded only by his enthusiasm for the holiday honoring the birth of Michael. If Michael navigated through life using holidays for reckoning, then his birthday was the North Star. Michael maintained his youthful joy surrounding his birthday throughout his lifetime and his enthusiasm was infectious to those around him. He used both holidays each December as an opportunity to supplement his always-expanding baseball cap collection, and at each family gathering he would count down the holidays remaining before his birthday. Such were the joys of an ordinary man. But he was also extraordinary.

Michael knew only friends. He had no concept of enemies. He often seemed on a quest to be the first man to hug every woman he had ever met. He was a man of seemingly limited abilities, yet he knew the words to every Beatles song ever written. Most importantly, he was an inspiration for a movement. Michael Koehler was among a group of disabled adults who became the standard bearers for group homes in St. Clair County, Illinois. As the lead plaintiff in a suit to establish one of the first residential group homes for disabled adults in St. Clair County, Mike sat calmly smiling at zoning meetings while angry people tried to put him in an institutional setting and deny him access to a life in the outside world. After a protracted struggle, and with the help of many people who believed that Michael and his group home brothers deserved their place in this world, Michael and his friends eventually got their home. Michael, with the help of a very loving and committed staff, lived in the group home that he helped inspire for 25 years.

He died unexpectedly in his beloved group home on August 25, 2012.

He is preceded in death by his mother, Mary Flynn Koehler; father, Orval Koehler, and step-mother, Virginia Koehler.

Michael is survived by: his sister, Gwen (Ralph) Stauder and brother, Jerry (Susan) Koehler, and by his nieces and nephews: Mary Rose Stauder (Pearse Corbett), Peggy Stauder (Tim Stubblefield), Kathleen Stauder-Mueller (Rich Mueller), Jerry (Angie) Stauder, Colleen Koehler (Darrell Couch), Kevin (Andrea) Koehler, and his great nieces and nephews.
Michael is also survived by his Harmony Place family: Shaun, Danny, Steve, Marshall, Kenny, Ivan, Terry; Dawn Cook, LaDeisha Scott, Michelle Dorsey, Dequanda Turner, Coretta Williams, Ceatris Williams, Brandon Fulton, Robin Guettermann, Patricia Taylor, and Nurse Dollie Cooper, as well as his many friends at Liberty Place and Challenge Unlimited.

Friends may call from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August, 29, 2012 at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Belleville, IL.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m., Wednesday August, 29, 2012 at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Belleville, IL with Msgr. Jack McEvilly officiating. Internment will immediately follow at Mount Carmel Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Parents and Friends of the Community Integration Services, Inc.,
212 S. 32nd Street, Belleville, IL 62226, for the benefit of Michael’s surviving group home brothers at Harmony Place.

“And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make” – lyrics from the Beatles song “The End”