Phi Kappa Sigma

John Kocher ’50

Walter J. (John) Kocher Jr., 92, passed away on December 21, 2020, in Scotch Plains New Jersey.

He was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on October 29, 1928, to Walter J. and Gertrude (Kauffmann) Kocher. Survivors include his wife of 65 years, Jean Parsons Kocher, his children, Mark J. Kocher (Catherine MacLeod), Diane J. Falzetta (Michael), and Edward A. Kocher (Sherri Damaré), his four grandchildren, David Kocher (Catherine Hughes), John Falzetta (Brenna Miller), Andrea Tyree (Zachary), and Dale Kocher, and one great granddaughter Quinn Falzetta. He is also survived by two step-grandchildren, Colby Gillette and Victoria Gillette, and pre-deceased by his granddaughter Emily E. Kocher.

Following service with the Army’s 20th Engineer Brigade during the Korean War, he joined Airco Inc. as a service engineer and remained with the company in several areas of responsibility until appointed vice president international of the Welding Products Division in 1972. Following the acquisition of Airco by British Oxygen Corp. in 1979, he was appointed vice president of Teledyne Readco. In 1981, he was recruited by Ashland, Inc. to help launch a global business, providing industrial gases, refrigerants, welding, and other products and services to the marine industry in over 400 ports worldwide. He managed the resulting high-growth business until his retirement in 1993. He was then asked to serve as a consultant for an additional two years. John then volunteered to counsel small business startups and existing businesses with what was then known as The Service Corps of Retired Executives and remained part of the SCORE organization throughout his life.

He was actively engaged with the MIT Alumni Association, serving on several fund raising and reunion campaigns and as a member of the William Barton Rogers Society, as well as the 1861 Circle and later as vice president and webmaster of the class of 1950. He stayed close to his Phi Kappa Sigma pledge class as well and was a member of various MIT clubs in the several locations where the family moved during his career, including The MIT Club of Northern New Jersey. In 2010, he received an MIT award in recognition of his class activities.

In addition to SCORE and his MIT class, he was active with other volunteer groups, including the US Power Squadrons, where he attained a full certificate and was elected squadron educational officer, a position he held for several years, helping to train members and the public in boating skills and safety. He was a life member of The American Welding Society and served in various capacities with sections in Chicago, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey.

He grew up with boats and the ocean and sailed with family and friends over many years on numerous ever-larger and more-complex sailboats, from northern Maine to the eastern Caribbean and enjoyed every minute of his time “messing about in boats”, particularly while teaching his children and grandchildren the joys of sailing and ocean cruising. In New Jersey, he was active with the Cedar Mar Yacht Club and, in South Carolina, was a member of the Yacht Club of Hilton Head. He also became a certified scuba diver.

He was a private pilot as well, first soloing in his hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at age 16, but he switched to a fulltime dedication to sailing in 1979 and never looked back. He was a competitive swimmer and wrestler in his early years. He raised orchids in his greenhouse, plus anything else that would flower in the summer garden, and was a longtime member of The American Orchid Society.

Having grown up in a restored pre-Revolutionary War Pennsylvania farmhouse next to a trout stream, a passion for fishing was in his blood. As were the antiques, including several family pieces, which filled the house. So was history. He was fascinated by genealogy, particularly in tracking the history of his and his wife’s families. Jean’s dates back to the Mayflower. He was a Civil War buff, a member of the Civil War Roundtable, and persuaded Jean to join him in visits to numerous battlefields where family members, including her great grandfather, had, in several cases, served with the Union Army. Add photography, skeet and trap, hunting, camping, and photography, plus rebuilding old houses, and you could say that he managed to keep busy most of the time.

He delighted in sharing his interests with anyone who would listen, but particularly his kids and grandkids. He took great pride in their numerous personal and career achievements, each different, but each very special.

In these unprecedented times, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no service at the present time. At a future date, when it is safe for people to gather, a memorial service will be planned.