Eugene “Gene” Donald Koepke at the age of 73, of Columbia, MO died September 16, 2021. He was born October 17, 1947 in Owensville, Mo. He was raised on a farm on Hog Trough Road between Owensville and Cuba, Mo. He loved farming and developed a passion for sports all his life. At the age of 13, Gene was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy of the Limb Girdle. It changed the trajectory of his life. He felt that he could not be successful in farming like his father or driving a truck like his grandfather.
After graduating from Owensville High School in 1965, he attended Capitol Business College and learned accounting. While living in Jefferson City, he made many lifelong friends. He was worried that his doctor would prevent him from getting a good job, but he was hired by the Missouri State Penitentiary and worked there for 10 years. He had a lot of great stories over the years and made a lot more friends, always calling them “jail buddies”.
On August 7, 1969, he married Frances Stafford. They fled to Oklahoma much to the dismay of his parents. Many years later, they found out that his parents, Stan and Lois Stafford, had also run away when they got married. At the age of 25, Gene was no longer able to walk and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, but that didn’t slow him down. In 1975, Gene left MSP and went to work for his in-laws at Pepsi. This gave them the opportunity to attend Pepsi conventions all over the United States. In 1986, the Pepsi franchise was sold and the family quickly retired.
In retirement, Gene was able to devote more time to his passion for the sport. He attended Missouri football and basketball games for over 40 years. He was a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. He began attending Columbia College games and became the honorary coach still seated between the coach and the scorecard. The relationship with CC’s men’s basketball team developed and they were invited to a day at the lake each year and several meals at home.
Gene was a philanthropist, but he liked to go unnoticed. He has donated to too many causes and organizations over the years.
After 41 happy marriage years, Fran passed away in 2010. In 2015, Gene married Deb Iwig and they had 6 very happy years together.
Gene is survived by his daughter, Laura (Jeff) Lentz, who has always been there for him in times of need, as well as a son, Mark Koepke. He had three beloved granddaughters, Averie, Lillyanne and Roselynn who gave him great joy. He also enjoyed the company of his two stepchildren, Caity and Jackson Hermann. Gene is also survived by his mother, Gladys Koepke; brother, James (Dorathea) Koepke, and several nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. He loved his family very much and will be sadly missed.
Visitations will be on Monday, September 20 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W, Columbia, MO 65202. The funeral will be on Tuesday, September 21 at 11 a.m. at Columbia United Church of Christ, 3201 I – 70 Drive NW, Columbia, MO 65202 with following funeral services at Memorial Park Cemetery. Please wear a mask if you participate.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Mobility Worldwide; Love, Colombia; or the Muscular Dystrophy Association.