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Scouting leader who lost Luther home in wildfire not surprised by others' kindness

Luther resident who serves as the associate chapter adviser for the Boy Scouts of America Eagle district Order of the Arrow chapter said wildfire claimed possessions, but not the kindness of others.
by Bryan Painter Modified: September 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm •  Published: September 8, 2012

Cheerful service is what Koch has witnessed.

“Being the custodian for someone else's things really, really weighs heavy on me,” Koch said, “because these kids worked on that regalia for years and every few months they'd add a new piece. When they go into those characters for the ceremonies, their outfits are incredibly important to them. Even though the fire wasn't my fault, I felt bad.

“The kids, though, were like, “We move on from those kinds of things. We don't sit and dwell on it.”

That didn't surprise her and neither did the reaction of others who live in and outside of Luther. When she returned not to a house, but ashes, friends and strangers alike were offering help.

“Your neighbor will walk up to you and say, ‘What can I do for you right now?'” Koch said. “Afterward, people would just hand you a $20 bill or say, ‘Here's a couple of T-shirts.'

“I wasn't surprised at the response.”

Koch was living at the house with two of her sons, Balderaz and Jacob Koch, 9. Her middle son, Vince Balderaz, 17, lives in Germany with his father. All three are involved in Scouting. Tony is an Eagle Scout.

He mentioned that to his mother when the two were talking on the phone Aug. 3 as the wildfires moved closer. She told him to gather a couple things and get out. He assured her, “I'm an Eagle Scout, I've got this.” That along with the action of law enforcement evacuating her son, has left Koch forever thankful for what she didn't lose.

“If my son had stayed 10 minutes longer getting stuff out of the house,” she said, “I would have buried him instead of taking him to college that following weekend.”

Koch and son Jacob have found another place to live in Luther for now, and are thankful for that.

“Oklahomans rely on Oklahomans, ” she said. “That didn't surprise me at all that they helped.

“I was just surprised that I was the one needing help. I'd rather be the one giving it.”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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