Herman J. Koenig, 94
In the early hours of Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, Herman J. Koenig’s spirit was peacefully set free from his well lived-in and worn 94-year-old body, at his home in Clarksville, Del., to soar to Heaven’s Kingdom. He was born Dec. 20, 1924, during a snowstorm, in West Winfield, N.Y., to John and Ann Koenig.
As the son of a farmer, he grew up working the land and dairy farm “Mount Koenig” in a rural community. In those days, farmers had to be self-sufficient. He taught himself to rebuild or create whatever was necessary to work the farm, including various snowplows and snowblowers. He converted a car into a Model A truck for the farm and for commuting to college. He also renovated the farmhouse by raising the roof, adding a chimney/fireplace, or whatever was needed.
Koenig graduated in 1949 from State University of New York in Oswego, earning a degree in industrial arts. He would later earn a master’s degree in education in Trenton, N.J. After graduating from separate colleges, he and his wife, Ruth, sought teacher jobs in warmer southern states.
They were married on June 30, 1949, at the Congregational Church in West Winfield, N.Y. After a camping honeymoon, they packed up and drove to Ocean View, Del., where both were hired as teachers at Lord Baltimore School. Upon arriving at their upstairs rental apartment in Clarksville, Del., they met Charles Marvel as he was painting the exterior of the house and became lifelong best friends with him and his wife, Irene.
At St. George’s United Methodist Church (with 2019 being their 70th year as members), the couple got involved with the youth program and choir program. In the 1970s, both sang in the St George’s Quartet, traveling around Sussex County. Over the years, Koenig was a Sunday-school teacher; member of the Official Board and Trustees; and frequent attendee and speaker at the weekly Men’s Prayer & Bible Study Breakfast.
Starting in the 1950s, the Koenigs took groups of students to Word of Life summer camp in Schroon Lake, N.Y., continuing visits for the next 50 years, with their friends, both daughters, their retired friends and each other.
For 20 years, Koenig taught industrial arts at LB, in a separate brick building with a classroom and large shop area for drafting, electrical, automotive, carpentry, manual typesetting, ceramics and more. He also used the shop for welding, auto-body work, two 14- and 16-foot boats and high school stage sets and props. After school consolidations in 1970, Koenig moved to Millsboro Junior High School to teach industrial arts for three years.
Next, as the Indian River School District’s career guidance and placement coordinator, he traveled the area to visit hiring employers to help students find summer jobs or permanent employment. Often seen riding his motorcycle, Koenig was often mistaken for a truant officer or policeman. The sight of his white helmet, dark pants and navy blue windbreaker caused many agile young people to run, jump fences and quickly hide. Herman also filled in as a substitute principal for all IRSD schools. He retired in 1987 after 38 years of service with the district.
In 1952, the couple bought 1.5 acres of land to design their new home, which Koenig built with help from a LB teacher and hired student helpers. He did all of the plumbing, electrical, masonry and brick work, and it’s proven to be a most hurricane-safe house, to this day.
He continued to build barns, a workshop, greenhouse, bomb shelter, treehouse, bike track through the woods, two pools, go-karts and much, much more.
His daughters and local kids had a playground paradise at the house, with a multitude of church picnics and pool parties over the years. Group bike rides with neighbors around the block or the triangle were routine for years.
In the early 1980s, he helped his brother build a two-story chalet. Koenig’s final building project was in 2011, at 86 years old: he designed, funded and had the garage on the old parsonage property moved between St. George’s Church and the new parsonage. Since 1949, the Koenigs had hoped for a Youth Center, which he finally made a reality. With much community volunteer work, the Surge Youth building was completed.
He and Ruth loved to travel throughout the country in his homemade campers. A multitude of amused campers would stop to watch him crank up his 14-foot, seven-person crank-up travel trailer, hitched to the station wagon. There were many great summer trips across and all around the U.S. with family or with the Marvels.
Koenig’s greatest travel creation was combining two short-bed vans into one 19-foot camper van, an 11-year labor of love. Stunned, the DMV staff weren’t quite sure how to classify the creation, which featured Koenig’s own handiwork, including welding, auto body, mechanics, wiring, plumbing, custom cushions and paneling, cabinetry, three bunks, custom painting and more.
He and Ruth reached their goal of traveling to all 50 states, as well as to Europe and the Caribbean. They made many new friends, locally and around the world.
Koenig’s hobby as a newlywed was photography, and he had his own personal darkroom. Some people still have the complete set of Koenig Christmas cards, which he created with special lighting, costumes, props and very uncooperative animals.
Skilled on the sewing machine and in carpentry, Koenig made furniture, window draperies, upholstered furniture, several winter coats and, especially, two wedding dresses, worn and designed by his own daughters.
Herman’s wood-turning talent was used for many projects, including priceless keepsakes cut from three old, cherished oak trees at St George’s Church. The pieces were donated and sold at the church auction. Besides being a skilled painter in oils and watercolors, Koenig spent a period writing poetry and very witty life stories. His youngest daughter convinced him to write an autobiography with plenty of photos.
He always loved to learn, so he would master anything that piqued his interest. He loved to teach and share his knowledge, encouraging others to try new challenges. He genuinely cared about all people, would help anyone in any way and was a faithful friend. He touched thousands of lives through his career in education and his dedicated service to the church.
Many think of Koenig as a legend in his time.
Koenig loved his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and committed his adult life in serving to the best of his abilities. He was blessed with an extraordinary talent, intellect and life. His walk with the Lord on this earth was a unique and spectacular journey.
He loved and cherished his family. He supported his children and grandchildren in so many valuable ways. He set the standard for the best way to live and enjoy life to the fullest. Most of all, he was loving and a great listener.
Koenig was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, John Koenig and his wife, Segri; a sister, Dorothea Malone; and brother-in-law, Earl Knobloch. He is survived by Ruth, his high school sweetheart and loving wife of 70 years; two daughters, Gwyn K. Terrell and her husband, John, and Beth K. Allen and her husband, Tim, his primary caregivers; grandchildren, Jared E. Terrell and his wife, Jessica, Alaina T. Vickers and her husband, Kenneth, and Luke S. Terrell and his wife, Jenny; great-grandchildren, Caitlyn, John and Caleb Terrell, and Kiera and Kenneth Vickers IV; his sister Josephine Knobloch; brother-in-law John Malone, nephew, Steven Malone; niece, Karen Marchese and her husband, Vince; two grandnieces; and a grandnephew.
A celebration of life service will be held at St George’s U.M. Church in Clarksville, Del., at a later date. Memorial contributions can be made to Delaware Hospice; 100 Patriots Way; Milford, DE 19963. Condolences may be sent online at www.melsonfuneralservices.com.