Stillwater News Press


July 2, 2012

Norma L. Koeppe

Norma L. Koeppe died Saturday, June 30, 2012 at the Stillwater Medical Center following complications from emergency colon surgery. She left this earth giving one last gift to the nursing staff that shared the challenges of her care. That gift was one of patience and dignity, with a smile of encouragement, knowing that many were seeing first-hand what had only been on the pages of a textbook some months before.

Norma was born Nov. 15, 1922 in Kalamazoo, Mich., to Cornelius Lemmer and Cornelia VanderSalm Lemmer.  She graduated in Jan. 1940 from Kalamazoo Central High School and in 1944 from Hope College, Holland, Mich. At Hope College, she was an Elementary Education and English Major and a driving force on campus. She was President of her sorority, Sigma Sigma, toured with the Chapel Choir and sang in the Girls Glee club. She also received an athletic Letter in 2007 for her achievements in Tennis, Volleyball and Horseback Riding, an honor not permitted in the 1940’s for women. While on campus, she lived at Voorhees Hall and was often referred to as “the best dressed girl on campus”.  She was “a catch”.

After college, she took post-grad studies at the University of Michigan and began a teaching career in Zeeland, Michigan and later at Roosevelt School in Kalamazoo. She taught 1st and 3rd grades. In 1947, she married her classmate from Hope College, Roger Erdman Koeppe. They moved to Urbana, Illinois where he was studying for his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Illinois and she continued her teaching career at Lincoln School. In 1949, their son Roger E. Koeppe II was born. In 1950, they became House Parents to ten young boys, ages 6-10, at the Cunningham Children’s Home. They remained in Urbana until 1951 and then moved to Memphis, TN where Roger began his teaching and research career at the University of Tennessee Medical School. They lived in Memphis until 1959 and added three more children to their home: Mary Elizabeth, 1953, Sarah Cornelia, 1955, and Edwin Cornelius, 1957. In 1959 Oklahoma State University’s Biochemistry Department beckoned them to Stillwater, Oklahoma and this became the place they called home. Shortly after their arrival in Stillwater, their fifth child, Peter VanderSalm Koeppe was born in January of 1960.

Norma had a special optimistic take on life. “No” was not a word she used frequently; “we’ll see” was her preference.  She dedicated her talents to her family and friends and community. Although her teaching no longer was attached to a paycheck, she raised her five children and became a special mom to many more. As a child, she had been raised at First Reformed Church of Kalamazoo. In Stillwater, she and her husband, Roger, became very active participants at First Presbyterian Church. She continued until very recently being active with her church Circle and Church Women United, and served whenever called. After her children left home, she worked for years managing her neighborhood polling location on election days, became the bookkeeper for Murphy’s Department Store and gave her support financially and as an audience member at the Town & Gown Theatre, Tulsa Opera, Allied Arts, OSU Theatre and many, many more cultural events. She served as President of Lahoma on OSU’s campus from 1970-71 and as First Lady of the Department of Biochemistry for more than 27 years, hosting picnics, Christmas teas, many a visiting lecturer and graduate students from around the world. She and Roger were avid bridge players and shared this with other couples, and until late May she enjoyed meeting regularly with her dear, dear friends of fun and fashion, the Wednesday Ladies Bridge Group. They were such an important part of her life.

Norma and Roger were unique in their talent for consuming wisdom and inspirational in sharing it. Beginning in 1978, they began to travel the world to expand their horizons and knowledge. They visited every continent, with travels extending from The Arctic circle to Antarctica. Whether sailing a tall-mast clipper ship, barging on a river, ballooning over Africa or catching a piranha on the Amazon their adventures were great. They knew no limits. Luxury was not the goal; what mattered were history and what the local people and culture had to offer. They shared a special bond as they stood above the horizon and knew where to look.

Norma L. Koeppe was pre-deceased by her parents, her brother, Dr. Richard Allen Lemmer of Bronson Hospital, Kalamazoo, in 1999, and her beloved husband of 62 years, Roger, in 2009.  She is survived by her five children, 11 grand children, 7 great-grandchildren, 3 sister in-laws, and one brother in-law.

Norma and Roger’s children are Roger II of Fayetteville, Ark., Mary of Altamont, N.Y., Sarah of Santa Fe, N.M., Edwin of Stillwater, Okla., and Peter of San Diego/San Jose, Calif.

Roger is professor of Chemistry/Biochemistry at the University of Arkansas; his wife, Jessie, is Director of the Library Resource Center for Fayetteville Public Schools. Mary Luidens is an Endocrinology physician on the faculty of Albany Medical College where she cares for patients, supervises medical students, residents, and fellows, and participates in some research studies; her husband, Robert, is Pastor of Altamont Reformed Church. Sarah continues to seek work as a Casting Director of film, television and theatre; her husband, David Huddleston, is a familiar character Actor with a face and voice known from Broadway to Hollywood. Edwin is owner of Engraving Excellence in Stillwater; his wife Donna is Vice President for Administration at the Oklahoma State University Foundation. Peter is an Electrical Engineer and Senior Technical Staff member in Product Development and Data Storage Designer at IBM; his wife, Jane E. Boyd, is an Internal Medicine physician at San Diego Family Care, a non-profit community medical clinic.

A gathering to celebrate Norma’s life will be held with the family at the First Presbyterian Church at 2pm on Thursday, July 5 with a reception to follow. Donations can be made to the Roger E. and Norma L. Koeppe Biochemistry Scholarship Fund at the OSU Foundation, 400 S. Monroe, Stillwater, OK 74074; the First Presbyterian Church, 524 S. Duncan, Stillwater, OK 74074; the Town and Gown Theatre, P.O. Box 934, Stillwater, OK 74076; or the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, P.O. Box 9000, Holland, MI 49422.

Condolences may be emailed to the family and an online obituary may be viewed by visiting

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