Former mayor dies at 67

Dennis Koho, who served as a city councilor and mayor of Keizer, passed away on Monday, June 10, at the age of 67.

As an attorney, business man and local political figure, Koho maintained a public presence despite health struggles in recent years. He was elected to the Keizer City Council in 1990 and mayor in 1992. He the city’s third mayor and served three two-year terms until January1999.

Koho’s wife, Lori, said Virgil T. Golden Funeral Home is handling arrangements and a memorial mass and burial in Bend, Ore., are planned. 

Koho returned to the city council for another term when voters elected him in 2012, he opted not to run again in 2016. 

News of Koho’s death reached the Keizer city council chambers at the tail end of a work session on the day of his death and most were visibly shaken. Koho had even visited the Keizertimes office earlier in the day.

Current Mayor Cathy Clark cited Koho for seeking to advance the community in almost every capacity. 

“Dennis chose to give himself to the betterment of our city and community, both through his determined leadership and his profound friendships,” Clark said. “As we each remember and celebrate his life and accomplishments, may we take from his inspiration to give and care about people and Keizer as he did.”

Councilor Roland Herrera, in noting Koho’s death on Facebook, said he will miss a dear friend. 

“I will miss our long political talks and crazy laughs … Rest in Power,” Herrera said. 

While Koho was involved in numerous local efforts, he was one of the driving forces behind an effort to bring the Volcanoes minor league baseball team to the city. In addition to his work in municipal inner workings, he was a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Keizer, a past president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. He was honored by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce with the President’s Award in 1998, an award he bestowed on Chet Patterson in 2009 as president of the group himself. 

As an attorney, with a degree from Willamette University, he often worked pro bono for local Keizer organizations that benefited from his knowledge. 

Even when he wasn’t spearheading the charge, Koho found ways to foster conversations in the community. He was one of the founders of a Facebook group dedicated to Keizer issues that continues to see a lot of activity. 

He enlisted Carol Phillips Zielinski to take over some the administrative duties on the group when he stepped away. 

“I first met Dennis when I was a Keizer Rotarian in the very early 2000s. While his classification badge stated attorney, he struck me as the embodiment of the Rotary motto of Service Above Self. At that time I was new to the community and it seemed like he had been active forever,” Zielinski said. “I appreciated his trust in me that I would carry on his creation (the Facebook group) as he hoped. I can only assume he trusted me to carry the Rotary principles with me as an admin on the site.”

Keizertimes Publisher Lyndon Zaitz said his friendship with Koho spanned more than two decades and many good times. 

“I enjoyed his company on our various outings, but it was his sense of humor that I will remember the most. That and the fact that he never met a meeting he didn’t move to adjourn. He was no fan of meetings but he was a fan of getting things done,” Zaitz said. “Regardless of any obstacles, Dennis always faced life with a positive, smiling attitude. He never gave up in politics, work or life. Just when you thought he was done, he’d bounce back.”