133 Mason St., Onalaska, WI • Call (608) 788-2188


Carl J. Koch

May 30, 2019 | 29 comments

 Carl J Koch, 73, of La Crosse, WI passed away on May 30, 2019 at Mayo hospital after years of treatment for prostate cancer. 

He was born on June 16, 1945 in Memphis, TN. He was the second child of Joseph and Helen Koch. He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Susan. 

Carl is survived by his wife Joyce, his niece Lisa Geeslin of Columbus Ga, his nephew David Harmon of Cincinatti, OH and nephew Kevin Harmon of Duluth, GA. He also has 37 nieces and nephews through his wife Joyce. 

Friends and family will remember his infectious laugh, profound hope, his ability to find the good part of everything. He saw life and everything about it as a gift, enjoyed music, had Southern hospitality in his DNA. He was always willing to learn about everything from wrangling to writing, let animals/dogs teach him, faithful friend, stimulating conversationalist, provided a safe space to be vulnerable, enjoyed cooking, humble yet assertive, never had an idea that couldn’t be made into a book, a servant leader. Carl’s attitude about life can be summed up by his favorite phrase “Get er done and have fun doing it.”

Carl was a speaker, retreat leader, writer, spiritual director, and consultant on servant leadership development. 

He retired in 2011 after six years as Director of Ring Lake Ranch, an ecumenical retreat center in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming [www.ringlake.org]. 

For thirty-eight years, Koch was a high school and then university teacher and administrator, having taught all levels from eighth graders to doctoral students. 

Koch served as a senior editor and writer at Saint Mary’s Press for sixteen years. He has authored 37 books and many journal articles. Among his books are: A Popular History of the Catholic Church (Saint Mary’s Press, 1996), Journalkeeping: Exploring a Great Spiritual Practice (Sorin, 2004), Creating a Christian Lifestyle (Saint Mary’s Press, 1996), Garden of a Thousand Gates: Pathways to Prayer (Saint Mary’s Press, 1998), and John Baptist de La Salle: The Spirituality of Christian Education (Paulist, 2004). His article “Only Witnesses” was published in ABC-CLIO’s academic web text, World Religions: Belief, Culture, and Controversy.In 2014, after an inspiring pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy he wrote Leading Like Francis: Building God’s House published by New City Press. In 2017 he wrote his last book; Renewal in Sacred Wilderness: The First 50 Years of Ring Lake Ranch to honor the sacred place and the people who had nourished his last 20 years.

From 2001 to 2006 Koch served as the first director of the MA in Servant Leadership Program at Viterbo University. This was the first graduate program in servant-leadership in the country. During these years he was also the program director at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, WI. 

Carl held master degrees in religious education, spirituality and human development, and English and a doctorate in English from the University of Michigan. 

His wife, Joyce, and he lived in La Crosse, WI, and enjoyed cooking, singing, kayaking, playing with their two rescue dogs, and walking. 

In lieu of flowers memorials can be sent to Wafer Food Bank, The Franciscan Hospitality House and Ring Lake Ranch in Dubois, WY. A funeral mass will be held on Friday, June 21, 2019 at 11 a.m. at Roncalli Newman Center, 1732 State St., La Crosse, with visitation being held from 10 a.m. until the time of service.



  1. David and Magdalena Harmon

    Uncle Carl, we will always miss your smile and jovial laughter. You always saw the best in life and lived a full life to be admired. Aunt Joyce, we pray that God blesses you during this time and always. Carl was one of the most beautiful people in our lives.

  2. Lisa Geeslin

    I am eternally blessed to have the privilege to call him my Uncle. However, he was so much more….
    a mentor, encourager, confidant, father figure, but most importantly, a precious friend.

    My heart is heavy, but there is no doubt that he is completely whole and thrilled to be in the presence his family and most importantly…of our Savior.

    Much love,
    Lisa, Matthew. Sam and Sarah Grace Geeslin

    • Carol Meyer

      Thinking of you Joyce with love and prayers from Unity Village Missouri. ❤️
      Carol Jean Meyer
      (Your favorite massage therapist 😉)

  3. Sue Lund

    Dear Joyce,
    I was terribly saddened to read of your husband’s death.
    Please accept my sincerest sympathy. I know that wonderful friends and community surround you with love and support!
    Sue Lund

    • Joyce

      Thank you Sue. The world has lost a great light

      • Teri Kunavich

        Joyce, I offer my heartfelt sympathy to you over Carl’s passing. He was a wonderful person and a real dog lover on top of everything else! Teri Kunavich

    • Bridget Butterfield

      Dear Joyce, So sorry to hear about Carl. Such a gentle and caring soul. May God surround you with his love.

  4. Dorie Beres

    Dear Joyce. I am sincerely sorry to learn of Carl’s passing. What a wonderful, gentle soul. Please know that I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers during this time of loss. May you find comfort in many wonderful memories.

    • Doug and Jo Boss

      Joyce, Doug and I send our thoughts,prayers, and a flooding of joyous memories of friendship. May you find the way in your deepest heart to live your new reality. We can not travel but will be with you in prayer.
      Carl was an amazing companion on our journey through the Spiritual Direction Program, he was gentle kind,and full of gratitude.
      With love in the way of peace and justice hold you tight in the process ahead. We have very not seen each other in many years but you remain in our hearts.

  5. Jan Janiszewski

    Dear Joyce,

    Mariellen and I were saddened to hear of Carl’s passing. We hope you find comfort in knowing you shared a special relationship with a wonderful, caring and thoughtful mate. His presence in this world made it a better place. You will be in our thoughts and prayers.

    Jan and Mariellen Janiszewski

  6. Virginia and Janet

    We are so heartened and humbled by our journey with you these past years. No measure of sympathy could adequately express our love and our loss. Know we hold you close to our hearts.

  7. Julie Tydrich FSPA

    Joyce, you and all of Carl’s family/friends,as well as yours are in my prayers. Be gentle with yourselves.
    Julie Tydrich FSPA

    • Mary Jo Klos

      Dear Joyce,
      I extend my heartfelt sympathy to you and all of Carl’s loved ones.
      He was an incredible human being. When I was trying to decide my next step between MBA and MASL I met with him to learn more about MASL and within moments my decision was clear, he so exemplified a true servant leader, as I imagined one to be….meeting him made my decision very clear. A decision that forever positively impacted my life. I will always be grateful. He lit up any space with his positive presence and made the world a better place. My prayers are with you now and in the times ahead. ❤

  8. Nancy S Danou

    Joyce, I send you my sympathy with the loss of Carl. You were blessed to have each other and the opportunity to work together to give much to others. I wish those years could have been longer. My prayers for you now and in the days ahead. Nancy Danou

  9. Joan Keller Maresh

    Dear Joyce, I’ve lost track of you two especially since our move to Pennslyvania. Carl was indeed a bright light for many & the love of your life. Remembering all of our times together in much laughter, good food & sharing of our lives. My heart is with you dear friend.

  10. Karen Gleason

    I am so very sorry to hear of Carl’s death. He was absolutely the best instructor we had in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Kindness and curiosity, he fostered both in equal measure. He made the world a better place…

  11. Wayne Wojciechowski

    Joyce— Words will always fall short to express how I feel on your loss on the death of Carl. He was so loved, so gifted, so giving and why now—no answer but maybe more for all of us to do now. May God’s peace be with you knowing Carl will still be with you in a new way now.

    Pax et Bonum

    Wayne Wojciechowski

  12. Jean Moore

    Joyce, My heart is heavy with the loss of Carl. He was always so upbeat, hope-filled, and fun. My heart is also heavy for you and the tremendous loss you are experiencing. May all the wonderful memories you have of life with Carl sustain you in the journey of grieving; and may your God of compassion and love be your constant companion. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Peace, Jean

  13. Fran Ferder

    Sweet Joyce,
    There are no words. Only love and memories can whisper in your heart.
    I pray each day to dear Carl and ask that he help you be aware of his presence and ease your grief. Mylove, Fran

  14. Linda Kuehl

    Dear Joyce, Carl was a driving force for Servant Leadership in our community. He set a standard above and beyond the call of duty. He will continue to be in my heart as one of the great innovators of Servant Leadership in La Crosse. I had the privilege and honor of being in the first graduating class of MASL at Viterbo University led by Carl Koch. Peace & blessings, Linda Kuehl

  15. Kathy Cesa


    I did not have the privilege of knowing Carl well. But did know him as a kind and loving soul, an excellent writer. My heart aches for you, knowing at every turn you will be reminded of what he might say or do. It is “bitter-sweet”. Sending hugs and love. Kathy

  16. Patty Vieck

    Carl was one of my teachers in high school. I enjoyed his classes and I have fond memories of the wonderful musical productions he facilitated during those high school years. I will always remember his beautiful rendition of the song Bridge Over Troubled Waters and will always think of him when I hear it. He was a good and caring man and he will be missed. My deepest sympathies go out to his family & friends.

  17. Kristine Brueggen

    Joyce, you are in my thoughts and prayers. It was such a joy to have met Karl, and to have been able to spend a short time with you both. I wish you comfort and peace.

  18. Terri Pedace

    Dear Joyce,
    I’m so sorry for your great loss. Carl was such a beautiful soul – the world needs so many more like him. His calm, generous spirit lives on in the numerous lives he touched. With love & prayers as you grieve your soulmate.

  19. Theresa Schneyer

    My dear Joyce, My heartfelt sympathies go our to you and family. Carl was a good and generous man. I pray for peace and healing for you. I am so grateful for Carl’s wonderful voice at Bob’s Funeral Mass. Thank you Carl and now you and Bob can sing together! Love and Peace, Theresa

  20. Maribel Wehrenberg

    Dear Joyce,
    I would like to send you my heartfelt and deepest sympathies for the passing of your husband. I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you. May you find peace and comfort in the many wonderful memories you’ve shared together.

    (Former Nursing Student)

  21. Bob Richgels

    Joyce, I am so sorry for your loss.

  22. Theresa A Washburn

    I am so sorry to hear about Carl’s passing. I was privileged to know him as both a colleague and professor and I can still hear his laugh and the gentle way he pushed me to see beyond my on biases. He was a wonderful man and his energy and love for this world will be missed.
    I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Tim Gognat

      Dear Joyce,
      Brother Carl (as we knew him at Central Catholic High School) had a marked presence.
      His passing was several months preceded by an equally kind & talented Brother Michael Giddings. Together, they embedded a sizable dose of culture into a small town Indiana school by shaping mediocre & awkward young mens’ voices into state recognized choral groups, in addition to inspiring us to perform a respectable “Charleston” during one of Carl’s notable musicals.
      Not only did these men shape us culturally, the whole lot of the Christian Brothers in our community led with commendable moral clarity, guidance & insight, constantly challenging the status quo during the late 1960’s. Indeed, very troubled years not unlike the present. Carl & his colleagues were a treasure!

Let's Celebrate Life Together

Call or send a message using the buttons below... Call (608) 788-2188Send a Message