Around the Case Western Reserve University Faculty Dental Practice, Kathryn “Kathy” Koehler was known for many things: her passion for the field, her positive attitude and her reliability.
But at her funeral service earlier this month, the pastor read a letter Koehler had prepared, and it included a reminder of one thing her colleagues remember fondly: the snort she gave when she laughed.
“We all started laughing because that was so her,” said Marna Negrelli, a registered dental hygienist at the Faculty Dental Practice who had known Koehler for 15 years.
Koehler passed away Aug. 1. She was 54.
Koehler, an assistant in the Expanded Functions Dental Auxiliary program, originally started at the university in 2000; she returned in 2015 after more than 10 years away.
Since she was a teenager, Koehler was drawn to the dental field, inspired by her father, who was a dental lab technician, and her uncle, who was a dentist. Over her career, she worked with several dentists in Northeast Ohio. She went on to graduate from Case Western Reserve University’s Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary program, which allowed her to provide patients with more hands-on care, such as placing fillings and conducting restorative work.
“She always said dentistry was in her blood and she couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” Negrelli said.
With the ability to make everyone smile—and a propensity to simultaneously emit her signature snort—Koehler was an uplifting presence at the Faculty Dental Practice. When someone was down, she always could cheer them up.
In an email to the faculty and staff of the School of Dental Medicine, Dean Kenneth B. Chance discussed her positive demeanor. “She was a phenomenal person who consistently brought smiles to her patients and anyone else she encountered throughout her day,” he wrote. “She will be deeply missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
And whenever anyone needed help with a task or someone to listen, her colleagues knew they could count on Koehler, no matter what she was going through, Negrelli said.
“If you asked her to do something, she would do it—even on her worst days,” she recounted.
Negrelli recalled how, during her first few days at the practice, she ate lunch alone. But Koehler wouldn’t allow that to happen. She came up to her and told her that no one should eat by themselves—and ever since, the two were friends.
In her spare time, she enjoyed spending time with her family, including her husband, Ron; children, Amanda, Grace and Matt; and mother, Judith Angle. She looked forward to becoming a grandmother, as her first grandchild is on the way.
Koehler also was heavily involved with her church, Christ Community Chapel in Hudson. She went on several mission trips to provide free dental care in Mexico.
Koehler so loved being surrounded by the dental field, she staked claim of the storeroom, joking that it was her “office.”
“She loved her job. She loved what she did,” Negrelli said. “She looked forward to coming in.”
Now, on the storeroom door of the Faculty Dental Practice hangs a sign reminding everyone that it’s Koehler’s “office.”