By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
George R. Koch (he pronounces it Cook) was elected Pennsylvania State Deputy for the Knights of Columbus at the state convention held in Green Tree near Pittsburgh in May. That makes him top dog for the K. of C. in the state, which is home to over 500 councils. The order, with almost 1.8 million total members, bills itself as the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world, and that’s probably correct.
Koch, who is expected to serve as state deputy for two years, is completely sold on the Knights.
“Every Catholic man should belong to the Knights of Columbus,” he said. “The Church is under attack everywhere and if we don’t defend it nobody will. We have 64,000 members in Pennsylvania and we speak up. If we had 128,000, more people would sit up and listen.”
Koch is a member of St. Albert the Great Council in Huntingdon Valley, which up until a year or so ago was Mother Anna Dengel Council; they changed the name, he explained, to be more closely identified with the parish where they meet, something which has been encouraged nationally by the Knights during the administration of Carl Anderson, the present Supreme Knight of the Connecticut-based national group.
In fact, Koch noted, men involved with the Knights are usually active in their parishes.
Now 64 and originally out of the former St. Edward Parish in North Philly, he’s a graduate of Northeast Catholic High School and retired from PennDot after a career in construction engineering.
As a very young man, he admits he was not a very active Catholic, but that was before he started dating his wife, Kathleen. Going to church regularly, he quickly realized, was part of the bargain, and he’s never regretted it since.
“My wife has been the biggest influence on my religious life and the Knights of Columbus after that,” he said.
They were married in 1967 and together they raised their four children: George, Christian, Kelly Ann and Beth Ann.
Mother Anna Dengel was a very young council in 1981 when Koch saw a membership drive flyer in church and decided it was something he would like to join.
Over the past almost three decades, he’s held just about every post you can think of in his council and his fourth degree assembly.
He’s especially proud of the social outreach programs of St. Albert Council, in particular its work with Special Olympics.
“One of my personal goals is to get the Knights even more involved,” he said. “When I went to the Special Olympics I was amazed to see how much the young men and women love them. About 90 percent of them become employed, and basically it is through the confidence they get through Special Olympics.”
While formal membership in the Knights is limited to Catholic men age 18 and over, it prides itself in being a family organization.
“Our wives are involved, our children are involved, and we support our parishes and our priests,” he said. “I’ve met the best people in the world through the Knights. We go to each other’s christenings and weddings. We vacation together. I’ve been all over the world with the Knights, to Europe, to Ireland. Joining the Knights was the second best thing I ever did; marrying my wife was the best.”
For information on the Knights of Columbus in Pennsylvania visit www.pakofc.us.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.