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William F. Koch, advocate for Buffalo's old buildings and churches

Feb. 28, 1930 – Aug. 24, 2019

William F. Koch loved Buffalo’s beautiful old buildings, especially the churches.

He spent decades talking to anyone who would listen about the community’s architecture, educating people about it and doing all he could to preserve it.

“He thought these old buildings were fantastic,” said his wife of 62 years, the former Lois Pudney. “He wanted to make sure that he helped people to realize all the beautiful buildings we have in this community.”

Mr. Koch, a retired Kenmore-Tonawanda science teacher who was a dedicated preservationist, died in Buffalo General Medical Center after a short illness. The Grand Island resident was 89.

He became fascinated with Western New York’s architecture in the 1950s and spent countless hours as a volunteer with local organizations working on preservation.

Mr. Koch grew up in Buffalo’s Kensington neighborhood and graduated from Kensington High School. He also earned degrees at SUNY Buffalo State and Canisius College before starting his teaching career in 1956. He retired in 1990 after spending most of his career teaching chemistry and biology at Kenmore East High School.

Few people knew more than Mr. Koch about the history of Buffalo’s churches, said Jason Aronoff, a Town of Tonawanda resident who worked with him on preservation projects for more than 40 years.

“Over all that time, Bill was trying to learn more, getting answers to questions about the histories of different buildings, visiting and exploring buildings that interested him, and letting others know about something that could make our lives richer,” Aronoff said.

Aronoff recalled that, during the 1980s, Mr. Koch was one of the region’s most enthusiastic supporters of efforts to restore Buffalo’s Darwin Martin House, long before it became a hot tourist attraction. Mr. Koch used to serve as a docent at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home.

His wife recalled that Mr. Koch loved talking about his love for Buffalo’s architectural treasures.

He was a former president and trustee of the Niagara Frontier Landmark Society, a former vice chairman of the Erie County Preservation Board, and at the time of his death was serving as chairman of the Grand Island Preservation Board. He often led architectural tours in the Buffalo area and sometimes presented an informational slideshow on architecture and history at local libraries.

He was also the treasurer and active volunteer at the Buffalo Religious Arts Center, 157 East S. Buffalo, an organization dedicated to preserving artworks and artifacts from churches and other local buildings that have been closed.

Mr. Koch delighted in spending time with his grandson and granddaughter. He was a member of St. Stephen’s Church, 2100 Baseline Road, Grand Island, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday.

Besides his wife, Mr. Koch is survived by two sons, Marc and James.

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