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Life Story / Obituary
With a journey that spanned nearly a century, Paul Koepnick touched the lives of so many in such a special way. He was a man of great honor and courage who gave everything he did his all. Paul’s love for his family ran deep, and he was filled with unspeakable joy to become a grandfather and great-grandfather later in life. Faith was a cornerstone in his life, and it showed in the way he lived his life each and every day. Life will never be the same without Paul here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
The Roaring Twenties brought us prosperous days where innovation was rapidly changing in almost every way of American life. This was also a time of great excitement in the lives of Paul and Ethel (Niergarth) Koepnick as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Paul Junior on April 1, 1924, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The older of two sons, he was joined in his family by his younger brother, Donn. Although he initially grew up in the family home on the Northwest side of Grand Rapids, Paul moved over 20 times during his formative years. These moves made for difficult adjustments for him each time he needed to start at a new school as he was rather shy. Paul attended South High School where he ran track. He started attending Redeemer Lutheran Church as well. Paul was a model child who enjoyed things like stamp collecting. It was also while growing up that he established his love for building model airplanes, which was something he loved all throughout his life.
As a young man Paul was eager for all that life had in store. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and although he had wanted to be a pilot he wasn’t able to qualify for it. Instead, Paul worked on planes stateside during WWII. This introduced him to engineering, and he served for a total of three years. Once he returned home Paul studied engineering at University of Michigan.
Also of great significance during this time was Paul’s introduction to the woman of his dreams. Her name was Pauline Gallagher, and they met at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids. Pauline couldn’t help but notice Paul, and they began dating while he was still at University of Michigan. This left him going back and forth to Grand Rapids on his Harley-Davidson. Deeply in love, Paul and Pauline were married on December 21, 1948, at Redeemer Lutheran Church and then took a brief honeymoon at the Palmer House in Chicago.
After their honeymoon, Paul and his new wife were eager to begin their lives together. They lived in converted Army barracks in Ann Arbor while he finished school but then returned to Grand Rapids. They lived on Worden Street, SE. Paul found work as an engineer at a few different companies including Rapistan. He spent the most time with APV Baker, where he worked as lead engineer designing commercial food processing equipment. Paul’s work took him on adventures around the world. Although he disliked the traveling, he was able to see exotic places like Columbia, Egypt, Germany, Japan, and Bangkok among others.
While he was busy establishing his career, Paul and Pauline also started their family. They welcomed three sons, Mark, Kurt, and Paul, into their hearts and home. They raised their family primarily in a home on the West Side. Paul was very handy around the home and could fix or build anything including a garage and a porch, and he also remodeled their basement. He hated paying for anything to be fixed, and he threw next to nothing away since it could almost always be fixed. As a father Paul was even-tempered and had boundless patience. He also encouraged his sons in their education and their faith. The family enjoyed both the pool table and the ping pong table in their basement, and when
Paul put in a pool that became a favorite place for the family to spend their time. Paul washed the car on Saturday, they had hamburgers on Wednesdays, and Saturday evenings usually meant popcorn and pop for the kids. Sadly, Mark died when he was just 18.
There were so many things that kept Paul busy over the years. He and Pauline had a core group of friends they often got together with, often playing cards. Paul had learned to be a machinist while in the military, and he had all the right machines and tools in his basement to take on just about any project. He built a trailer they would take camping with their 9x17 tent, frequently going to Silver Lake or Interlochen in addition to other adventurous places. Paul continued building model planes, everything from rubber band powered, to gliders, to radio controlled – and he shared this passion with his youngest son. He had an extensive collection of planes in his basement including one with a 9-foot wingspan that is powered by a chainsaw motor! Paul even built some guns and knives as well as woodworking. He was active with the Grand Rapids Rifle and Pistol Club, even serving a term as president for a time. Paul took up golfing, and Pauline eventually joined him. He played at Lincoln Country Club, Gracewil, and English Hills, and they also made time to play further South near Myrtle Beach. When his son was in high school he started jogging again and kept a meticulous journal for quite some time. A loyal University of Michigan fan, he loved watching them play football and even took in a few games at the Big House.
Faith was always a cornerstone in Paul’s life. When they moved to the West Side, they eventually became charter members of Mount Olive Lutheran Church when it was still small enough to meet in a house. Paul served in the church, even stretching his personality to go visit parishioners.
During their retirement years Paul continued to embrace the days he was given. He and his wife enjoyed traveling including to Europe and to see her family in Canada. Paul treasured his role as a grandfather, and seeing his grandchildren as often as he could was a priority. He was a great playmate for his grandchildren, and they all adored one other. Paul enjoyed reading, including several magazines as he always had a stack near his favorite chair. Although Paul had some health scares 25 years ago, he lived a long life and was able to remain with Pauline in their longtime home.
Steady, hardworking, and loving, Paul Koepnick was an extraordinary man to know and love. Although he was shy by nature, his wife helped stretch him in ways that grew him and blessed those around him. Paul’s strong and steady faith guided his steps, and his life reflected what it means to be the hands and feet of the Lord he loved. Deeply cherished, he will be forever missed.
Paul J Koepnick, age 97, was called home to enjoy the peace and beauty of heaven, and help our Lord with any carpentry projects. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Donn, his son Mark, and many wonderful friends.
Beloved husband of Pauline (Gallagher) for almost 73 years. Loving father of Kurt (and Judi) and Paul. Cherished grandfather of Michael (and Cory) and Katie (and Christopher). Loving great grandfather to Ella, Eden, Rose, Nora, and Claire. Proud uncle to Skip (Mary), Shawn, and Pam (Glen).
Paul was the oldest of 2 boys and was born April 1 to Paul and Ethel Koepnick. But he was no “April fool”! “GGPaul” was the most intelligent, kind, and thoughtful person we ever knew!
He graduated from South High in GR And was a proud graduate of the University of Michigan School of Engineering (Go Blue)! Paul worked at APV Baker as a head design mechanical engineer until his retirement.
Paul met and married the love of his life, Pauline Gallagher in 1948 in Grand Rapids. Anyone who knew Paul knew that he was a man of integrity. He modeled and passed on his values and morals to his family. He was determined to provide for his family and give them a beautiful life. He was very proud of his sons. He doted on his grandchildren and adored his great grandchildren.
Paul was a quiet, steady, faith- filled man who loved his Lord and Church. He was an active member of Mount Olive Lutheran Church where as a Charter Member, he served as an Elder.
His many hobbies included creating masterpieces in his woodworking shop - where he could often be found! His beautiful creations are treasured by all who received them. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix. If something broke, grandpa was the first person you called! He also enjoyed bowling, golfing, playing euchre and bridge, hunting, gun smithing, and competitive target shooting. He spent many hours building and flying his radio controlled model airplanes. He will be dearly missed.
His Lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.“ Matthew 25:23
Visitation will be held on Monday, December 6 from 10-11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. His funeral service will follow, beginning at 11 AM. For those who wish, you may honor Paul by making a donation to a charity of your choice. To read more about Paul, to share a memory or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com