Pauline L. Kohler
~~ OBITUARY ~~
BONNE TERRE Pauline L. Kohler died
gracefully - as she had lived - on October 19, 2010. The daughter of George and Frieda
Lenz, she was 102 years old.
An energetic woman, she was an avid gardener, a world traveler and a voracious
reader. She graduated from Mineral Area College at 84 and drove her own car until she was
She was a loving woman, devoted to her four children and their families, and
she adored her husband, Theodore Nicholas Kohler, who preceded her in death. Her sisters,
Helen Hermann (d) and Ruth Meyer, were her close companions throughout her life.
She was an honest and ethical woman who never lied - not once. She criticized
only on the rarest occasion, so when she did, people paid attention. She had only good
things to say about others.
A woman of personal faith, she worked tirelessly for tiny St. Peter's Episcopal
Church in Bonne Terre, Mo, where she was senior warden. On many Sundays, she would be the
only person in attendance. No matter, she conducted the worship service in its entirety.
Her family, friends and a wide circle of admirers will miss her presence,
acutely aware that there is less goodness in the world with her passing. She would tell us
that we should continue to learn enthusiastically, experience widely and enjoy fully.
Visitation will be Friday, October 22, 2010 at 10 a.m. at the St. Peter's
Episcopal Church in Bonne Terre. Service will be Friday at 11 a.m. at the St. Peter's
Episcopal Church. Burial will be at 2 p.m. on Friday at Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood, Mo.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Bonne Terre Ministerial Alliance will be
gratefully accepted. Arrangements are under the direction of C. Z. Boyer & Son Funeral
Home in Bonne Terre.
Published Thursday, October, 21, 2010, St. Francois County Daily Journal.
Kohler Celebrates A Century
Pauline Kohler is surrounded by her sons as she celebrates her
100th birthday Saturday at St. Joe Manor. Dont let the big numbers scare
you, says Mrs. Kohler. Even at 100, you do it one day at a time.
Clockwise from left are her sons Mike, Pete and Steve. Her daughter Julie was unable to
attend the celebration that included members of the Episcopal Church and the Bonne Terre
Garden Club. Mrs. Kohler was born Jan. 26, 1908 and has lived in Bonne Terre for 30 years.
DonnaHickman/DailyJournal Staff Writer
St. Francois County, Missouri,
January 28, 2008
Celebrating a life of faith and witness
January 26, 2005
BONNE TERRE - The Sunday crowd at St. Peter's Episcopal Church is usually
small. Sometimes there are six people for worship. Sometimes there is only one. And it is
because of that 'one', the church has reason to celebrate.
Pauline Kohler turns 97 years old today. Since 1974, she has been the church's warden - a
sort of caretaker whose job it is to open the church doors and conduct the service each
week - even if she is the only one there.
"Oh, if it's just me, I still lead the service from beginning to end because that's
what I'm supposed to do," she explained.
Last Sunday, she came an hour early and found the organist and priest already there.
Slowly, others began to arrive, including her sons.
"I didn't really associate it with my birthday until my son brought the
flowers," she explained. "I didn't know a thing about it."
The organist played. The service began and The Rev. Catherine Hillquist, vicar of St.
Paul's Episcopal Church in Ironton, offered an explanation.
"We are here to praise and worship God, but we are also here today to celebrate a
birthday," she said. "And Pauline, the best gift we could offer was to fill your
Sure enough, there were 35 people filling almost every pew in the tiny church. Mrs.
Kohler, wearing a corsage of roses and daisies, was seated between two of her sons. The
smile on her face was broad.
She stood up, clutching her well-worn prayer book and said, "It's dawning on me now
what's happening. If you have never been to a surprise party before, you have been to one
Hillquist delivered a sermon written by Father Nathaniel Pyron, who has served communion
at the little church one Sunday each month for the last two years. He had planned the
surprise service for Mrs. Kohler, but was too ill to attend. So, Hillquist read his words.
"Why did Jesus choose Peter, Andrew, James and John to be his disciples?" she
asked. "He saw in them a determination - true grit - that when channeled would not
quit. Why did God call Pauline Kohler to St. Peter's Church in Bonne Terre? God knew she
had that true grit."
Among the guests who came to celebrate Sunday was Jim McGregor, who grew up in Bonne Terre
and represented Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis.
"It's Pauline's unconditional faith that keeps her going," he said. "It's
like she has an understanding, a calmness about her religion. She believes it and she
In prayer, they thanked God for her faithfulness and witness to her love of Christ.
"This is a holy place and through you, God keeps it holy," said Hillquist. Then
she added, "Every Sunday, sometimes with only God and the company of heaven here with
her, she leads the service as if 400 were here."
Sunday worship isn't the only way Mrs. Kohler serves her church.
She sends out a church newsletter called, "The Fisherman." She represents St.
Peter's as a member of the Bonne Terre Ministerial Alliance. She lights the luminaria out
front for the Christmas parade.
"It's her mission to make people know St. Peter's is still here," said Sheryl
Rowden, a church member. "Her motto is the red door will be open every Sunday and if
she can't do it, she sees that it gets done."
Her resolve to keep the church going is true to her character, according to her son. Mike
Kohler said when his family lived in St. Louis, his mother decided to do some volunteer
"So she went to the state hospital on Arsenal and told them she wanted to teach dance
to the people who were locked up," he said. "And so, she did - every week for I
don't know how long. My great fear was no one would let her out when she was done."
And he said his mother can't take "no" for an answer. When she was pregnant with
his youngest brother, Mike said she refused to order dinner while they were dining out
telling the waiter, "No, I'm going to have a baby tonight." When she told her
doctor that, he told her it wasn't time. But before the night was over, Mike said she did
indeed give birth - 15 years to the day after she had had Mike, she gave birth to her son
Peter. She also has a daughter, Julie.
Friends and family surrounded Mrs. Kohler after the worship service to swap stories about
her. Tiny in stature, but a giant in her faith, she posed for pictures in front of the
flower-covered altar with friends like 98-year-old Gussie Freehan of St. Louis.
They sang "Happy Birthday" and at one point, Mrs. Kohler turned to the group and
said, "Oh, I do thank every one of you."
St. Peter's was built in 1908, the same year Mrs. Kohler was born.
"It must keep going," she said. "Too many women worked too hard to get it
to 2005. The church was built by women who raised money through teas and quilts. We have
no kitchen, no meeting hall, but it's a wonderful church - people is the only thing we
At 4 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of each month, a priest comes to lead the service. But
every other Sunday of the month, it is Mrs. Kohler who opens the doors and leads worship
at 10 a.m.
"This church is everything to her," said Rowden. "She will probably ask me
to make certain it keeps going if anything ever happens to her, but I don't think it
By D. Hickman/DailyJournal Staff Writer
St. Peter's Church closes in Bonne Terre
Sept. 4, 2007
It has stood as a beacon of faith in the heart of Bonne Terre for almost 100
years. Now, the lights have dimmed at St. Peters Episcopal Church. The services have
Its a tender situation, explained Sandra Coburn, Communications Director
for the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. Everything is on hold for now and we have no
The little church on Southwest Main Street had five members when it was built in 1908
all women. It still lists its membership as five. There were services every Sunday
and a priest from Ironton served communion one Sunday each month. Church member Pauline
Kohler served as warden for the church, opening it every week and conducting services.
Often she would be the only one in worship, a fact noted when Mrs. Kohler celebrated her
97th birthday there in 2005.
Why did Jesus choose Peter, Andrew, James and John to be his disciples? asked
The Rev. Catherine Hillquist at that celebration on Jan. 25, 2005. He saw in them a
determination true grit that when channeled would not quit. Why did God call
Pauline Kohler to St. Peters Church in Bonne Terre? God knew she had that true
During a service held in May, Mrs. Kohler fell and gave up her role as church
caretaker. She and the church will be 100 in January.
Im not ill, but Ive taken to falling, so I just cannot do it
anymore, she explained. My husband, Ted, was always active in the church when
he was alive. I took over some of those duties after his death.
She said she would like to see the building continue as a church, even if not for an
Coburn said what the church needs is community support to keep the bright red doors
According to a history of the church written by its treasurer, Emily dePuystar Conover, in
1912, St. Peters began as a mission in March of 1908. She wrote of how
Archdeacon W.M. Walton came to Bonne Terre and found little support from the people, but
Conover wrote to him to come back and try again. They began meeting together for
worship all the members were women. Later that year, St. Joe Lead President Dwight
Jones gave the church a lot and building on Main Street valued at $1,500. He also gave
them a check for $100. To raise money for a new church, they made quilt tops and sold them
for as much as $50.
The congregation met in the building until it built the church in front of the old
structure in 1910. Mrs. Conover described it as 18 by 38 feet with white walls and ceiling
with a roof in a gothic style and woodwork finished in cherry stain.
The building cost $1,500 to build.
The work of about six faithful women, wrote Mrs. Conover. We certainly
were guided by One that knew our road was going to be hard to travel, for we met success
on every hand, so it seemed and now we have 10 communicants and a strong guild. We need to
work awfully hard and still we are doing nicely and everything looks bright for the future
of St. Peters.
Mrs. Kohler has been attending the church since 1970.
We never had a crowd, she explained. For years, people who came were
associated with St. Joe Lead. We had a great fluctuation in attendance, but we were open
Those who attended the church for a time may have moved away, but Mrs. Kohler said they
often continued to send money for its upkeep.
Surrounded by homes that arent nearly as old as it is, the church looks a little out
of place on the wide residential street in the heart of the city. Kohler said on the
Sundays she had company for worship, it was usually Sheryl Rowden who joined her. Rowden
has attended for more than 20 years. She said when its red door was open, people would
often stop in the church to say theyd always wanted to take a peek inside.
I can remember my daughter crawling through the railings of the altar as a
toddler, she said fondly. This church was comfortable for me and it met my
She said the Diocese will remove the pews, organ and other items inside the church,
including a cross and candlesticks engraved with the Jakobe and Conover names two
families who figure prominently in the citys history.
I think it would be wonderful if someone would keep it alive as a wedding
chapel, Rowden said, but for now, the Diocese has said theyre open to
She invites anyone interested in the church to call her at 573-358-2835.
She said arrangements have been made to provide lawn care for the property.
We worked very hard to keep the church a credit to the neighborhood, said Mrs.
Rowden believes she was blessed to have been partners in faith with Mrs. Kohler over the
If it hadnt been for Pauline, the church would have closed many years before
now, she said.
By D. Hickman/DailyJournal Staff Writer