Eugene “Gene” Donald Koepke, 73, of Columbia, passed away September 16, 2021.
He was born on October 17, 1947, in Owensville,
He grew up on a farm on Hog Trough Road between Owensville and Cuba. He loved farming and developed a lifelong passion for sports. At the age of 13, Gene was diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. That changed the trajectory of his life. He felt he could not successfully farm like his father or drive a truck like his grandfather.
Upon graduation from Owensville High School in 1965, he went to Capitol Business College and learned bookkeeping. While living in Jefferson City, he made many lifelong friends. Gene was afraid his MD would keep him from getting a good job, but was hired by Missouri State Penitentiary and worked there for 10 years. He had lots of great stories about those years and made many more friends, always referring to them as his “prison buddies.”
On August 7, 1969, he married Frances Stafford. They eloped to Oklahoma, much to the dismay of her parents. Many years later they found out her parents, Stan and Lois Stafford, had also eloped when they married. At the age of 25, Gene was no longer able to walk and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, but he did not let that slow him down. In 1975, Gene left MSP and went to work for his in-laws at Pepsi. This gave them the opportunity to travel to Pepsi Conventions all over the USA. In 1986, the Pepsi franchise was sold and the family soon retired.
In retirement, Gene was able to give more time to his passion for sports. He attended Missouri football and basketball games for over 40 years. He was a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. He started going to Columbia College games and became the honorary coach always sitting between the coach and the scoring table. The relationship with the CC Men’s Basketball team grew and they were invited down for a lake day every year and several meals at the house.
Gene was a philanthropist, but he liked to fly under the radar. He donated to many causes and organizations over the years.
After 41 years of happy marriage, Fran passed away in 2010. In 2015, Gene married Deb Iwig and they had 6 very happy years together.
Gene is survived by mother Gladys; daughter Laura (Jeff) Lentz, who always was there for him when needed, and son Mark Koepke; he also enjoyed the company of his two stepchildren Caity and Jackson Hermann; brother James (Dorathea) Koepke; beloved granddaughters Averie, Lillyanne, and Roselynn who gave him much joy; and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. He loved his family very much and will be greatly missed.
Funeral services were held Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 20 and 21, at Memorial Funeral Home, Columbia.
Memorials suggested to Mobility Worldwide; Love, Columbia; or the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Arrangements entrusted to Memorial Funeral Home, Columbia.