John Kohler

On Dec. 30th, 2011 the life of John Bill Kohler came to a peaceful end at his home in Tucson, Az. He was in the company of family and one loyal cat named Mabel. This is not a notice of loss but, rather one that celebrates the life of a true horseman. John had just turned 84 yrs. old two days before his death. He was born in Lyons, CO. in 1927. He had a hard childhood but, his love for horses was developed over that tough time. His first “job” with horses came at the age of 9. And from there he was hooked.

He worked on ranches in the west and then came to Michigan in the early 50’s to be the Head Wrangler at the Jack and Jill Dude Ranch in Montague, MI. There he met and fell deeply in love with Elizabeth “Betty” Kelly who came there over her summer vacation from Detroit, MI. A few years later they married and raised four daughters, Marilou, Susan, Kathy, and Patty on their farm in South Lyon, MI. They were married for 56 yrs. with Betty preceding him in death in 2009.

They were direct neighbors to the well known Harness Racing Farm owned by the Downing family. John did a lot of work with their horses and over the next 30 plus years he too got into the Harness Horse business raising several good horses; Adorable Abbe and Worthy Dora to name a few. He is a Life member in the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association.

John held many roles but, the one he may have loved best was that of grandfather to his six grandchildren, Patrick, Erin, Christopher, Kelly, Brian and Bridget. Papa John could be seen walking hand in hand with one of them out to do chores or having them witness first hand the birth of a new foal. They all have favorite Papa John stories about horses that they will cherish all their lives. John’s first great grandchild is due later this summer. Although this little boy will not now his great grandfather personally, all the rest of us will make certain that he does. We have the honor of sharing all of the stories and gifts that John and Betty Kohler gave not only to us, but to everyone that knew them.