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John D. Koehn

The Honorable John D. Koehn, retired circuit court judge for Door County, passed peacefully surrounded by family on July 21, 2021.  He was born on September 22, 1936, to Lester and Dorothy (Armstrong) Koehn in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  He graduated from Sturgeon Bay High School in 1954, where he played trumpet in the band and starred on the basketball team.  

John attended Drake University in Iowa on a basketball scholarship.  In 1956, John entered the U.S. Army, and served in Panama where he played his trumpet in the band and played the morning bugle call, something he liked to perform over his brother’s bed in the morning when he returned home.  He played in dance bands while serving.  He served in the Army until 1958, after which he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

At Madison, he met Lois Grassel, his future wife, who had asked for directions to class which happened to be a class that John was also taking.  John and Lois married in Sturgeon Bay in 1959.  John graduated from college at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.  He began work in the insurance industry.  While working full time and supporting a wife and two children, John attended night school at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois.  He graduated from law school in 1967 and moved to the Green Bay area where he worked for a local law firm.  

In 1971, John and his family moved to Sturgeon Bay where he began working for the law firm Leasum, Kirkegaard, Pinkert, and Smith (now the Pinkert Law Firm).  In 1988, John was elected circuit court judge of Door County, a position he proudly served, presiding over everything from traffic matters to major criminal trials.   He retired from the bench in 2000.  John performed one more judicial act during his retirement – he performed the marriage ceremony for his daughter. 

John enjoyed retirement with his wife, Lois, who also retired in 2000.  They traveled extensively, including to Colorado and Arizona to visit their daughters and grandsons.  John relished spending time with and watching his grandsons in their sports.  

John was an avid golfer and played many rounds with his wife and many friends.  He enjoyed league play and golf outings, where he made many long-time friendships.  John and his wife made many golf trips to the southeast in the early years and played lots of golf in Arizona with their daughter and son in law.  John and his wife loved to travel and made many trips to visit their daughters and John’s siblings.  

John also loved music.  In the 1970s, he played in a Dixieland group on Saturday nights at Leathem Smith Lodge.  John played his trumpet many years with the Peninsula Symphonic Band and the Algoma Community Band.  He also played in pit bands for a few of the local high school musicals.  For many years, John played “Taps” for Memorial Day ceremonies.  John and Lois had a fantastic time traveling to Europe twice with the Algoma Community Band.  In retirement, John was able to play for several years with the Ahwatukee Foothills Community Band with his daughter while he was in Arizona. 

John is survived by his wife Lois, 2 daughters and their spouses, Edith (Kyle) Peter of Windsor, CO and Christina Koehn (Randy Rusch) of Phoenix, AZ; grandsons, Daniel, Colin, and Corey Peter all of Colorado.  John is also survived by siblings Charles Koehn of Sturgeon Bay, Marilyn (Greg) Warburton of Moorestown, NJ, Andrea (Robert) Bullard of Boston, MA, and Philip (Lauren) Koehn of Brookfield, WI; brother-in-law Gerald (Sally) Grassel of Sturgeon Bay; and many cousins, nephews, and nieces. He was preceded in death by his parents and in-laws, Jim and Bernadette Grassel, and Anne Grassel. 

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.  Donations in John’s memory may be made to AMVETS Post #51 (PO Box 183, Sturgeon Bay), the Peninsula Symphonic Band, the Algoma Community Band, and Door County Meals on Wheels.   Forbes Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.


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