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Charlie Kohler August 7, 1921 - July 6, 2024

Charlie Kohler

On the morning of July 6, 2024, a WWII American Hero raised his final salute … retiring from a life defined by war, Charlie Kohler died in peace at home in Warson Woods, MO.  Just shy of his 103rd birthday, Charlie never shied away from making others smile. A gift embodied within his big personality, the laughter of life always echoed off the walls of his home ironically adorned with instruments of death … a shard of shrapnel removed from the wounds he suffered on Iwo Jima, an enemy’s rifle last pointed directly at him on Saipan and two dog tags dangling from a strap of war-torn leather.

Somehow – after the war – this fierce Combat Marine buried those traumas and replaced them with treasures … his wife, Juanita, forever honored and cherished Charlie for his heroism on the battlefields and on the ballfields where he was destined to be a major league baseball player.  No wonder Charlie was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and was inducted into the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame … as the pride of McBride High School, he had .510 batting average and was the most feared slugger in his league.

A perennial athlete, Charlie also slugged a lot of opponents in the boxing ring, knocking out every combatant he ever faced … earning him the nicknames “KO Kohler” and “The Champ.”  He went from throwing punches in rings and baseballs on diamonds to tossing hand-grenades on far-off shores in defense of our country … and nearly sacrificed his own life to preserve our freedom.

As commander of the top-rated anti-tank gun crew in the entire Marine Corps, Charlie was credited for saving the lives of several fellow Marines on the island of Tinian during a middle-of-the-night enemy attack … a story recounted in the pages of the book, Black Dragon.  The heroism of Gunnery Sergeant Charlie Kohler has also been widely acclaimed in newspapers, magazines and television … including a documentary movie named Brothers In Arms that aired on PBS and played in multiple film festivals.

Having earned a Purple Heart and numerous distinguished WWII medals, Charlie was never one to meddle in other people’s business. After all, he had his own business to run … and run it he did. After inheriting his father’s single printing press, he ran the streets of downtown St. Louis and turned cold-call sales into lifelong friendships.

As Charlie grew his accounts, his presses began to run even faster and he built Kohler & Sons Printing Company into one of the most renowned graphic art lithographers in the Midwest. In the process, he also built an office and printing plant in Overland, MO that became headquarters for his 100+ employee organization.

After turning the business over to his sons, Charlie stayed on at the company as the Director of Mirth and led an employee-recognition program under the pseudonym “Lucky Chucky” … cloaked in crazy costumes, the beloved Lucky Chucky met with every employee each Friday and created a culture of incredible camaraderie that became nationally recognized within the industry.

While dedicated to his business, Charlie was forever devoted to his sons, Kevin, Kent and Keith who remain the beneficiaries of one of the greatest father / mother duos to have ever graced this world. Charlie and his wife, Juanita, favored family above all else and introduced their boys to fishing, camping, canoeing and golf … a sport Charlie took pleasure in as he always hit ‘em straight down the middle and drank ‘em straight at the 19th hole.

As he was actively passing over the course of the Fourth of July, the heavens and earth – in a most delicate dance – exchanged the honor of saying goodbye and welcoming him home.  Fireworks red glared about every corner of America as our hero gradually eased into ever-sleep … it was to be our country’s grand finale salute to him, giving proof though the night that we’re in the land of the free because of the brave.

Not to be outdone, the heavens over St. Louis broke open as soon as the bombs stopped bursting in air. That evening, as an all-night thunder rumbled overhead, lighting popped and cracked across the sky. It was – of course – not lightning at all, but rather the flashbulbs from God’s paparazzi as The Champ walked the red carpet and entered eternity on the arm of his angel.

In addition to his three sons, Charlie’s legacy lives on with his brother, Jerry, along with four grandchildren, Lisa, Sarah (Mike) Kalicak, Eric and Mark plus two great-grandchildren, Charlie and Cate Kalicak and with his sons’ life partners, Maria Tucci, Becky Kohler and Elizabeth Seidelman.

Services:  A formal tribute honoring our American Hero will take place in the months ahead. For those interested in attending our forthcoming celebration, please stay tuned as plans will be announced for a date in the Fall.  Those interested in honoring Charlie’s legacy (and those of his fellow WWII heroes) may donate to Beyond The Call, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to documenting the first-hand accounts of veterans who answered the call of duty and fought to preserve our freedom. All donations are tax deductible. Website here: www.wwiibeyondthecall.com.

A formal tribute honoring our American Hero will take place in the months ahead. For those interested in attending our forthcoming celebration, please stay tuned as plans will be announced for a date in the Fall.  Those interested in honoring Charlie’s legacy (and those of his fellow WWII heroes) may donate to Beyond The Call, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to documenting the first-hand accounts of veterans who answered the call of duty and fought to preserve our freedom. All donations are tax deductible. Website here: www.wwiibeyondthecall.com.

Condolences(3)

  1. REPLY
    Michael Robert Redohl says

    An amazing man who I had the pleasure to work with….prayers and condolences to the Kohler family and thank you Charlie for your amazing service to our country!!! A life so well lived!!! RIP Charlie you will never be forgotten!!!

  2. REPLY
    Jim Stange (Concordia Publishing House) says

    So sorry to hear of the passing of Charlie, I met him once while working with the family printing company and will always remember his wit and humor. A true gentleman and hero. Blessings to your family.

  3. REPLY
    Linda Eccleston says

    Dear Kevin and Lisa and family,
    What a beautifully written obituary. Your Dad and Grandfather sounds like quite a man—heroic, athletic, creative, and loving. In our association with you at Viz, we saw those characteristics in you. Kevin, you gave so much to Viz—coaching sports, co-chairing auction, etc. Lisa, you were a good classmate to Christine and then a good Viz colleague to me. Your dad and grandpa must have been so proud of all of you. We pray that the Holy Spirit will give you extra graces as you mourn. May you find comfort and joy in all your memories.
    Blessings,
    DeLane and Linda Eccleston. Christine and Caroline.

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