On the first day of January, 2013, John Franklin Koger, Jr. bid farewell to his family and friends, and quietly transitioned to his eternal rest.
John was the older of two children born to the late John Franklin Koger, Sr. and the late Elizabeth Lee Koger in Reidsville, NC, on June 12, 1923. In 1926, John and his family moved to Baltimore, where they lived briefly with his Uncle Linwood Graves Koger, Sr. The prospect of better employment opportunities led the family to the city of Pittsfield, MA for about two years. While in Massachusettes, the family was blessed with the addition of a baby girl; the late Winifred Ann. Winnie, as she was affectionately called, was the apple of her brother’s eye. As a young child, John was industrious and hard working. He loved recanting his adventures of selling newspapers on the streets of Massachusetts at the tender age of four years.
John was educated in the Reidsville, NC public schools, and he graduated from Washington High School. After graduation the family moved again to Baltimore, MD. John enrolled at Howard University in Wash, DC. His college career was interrupted, however, when he was drafted into the military to serve in World War II. John’s military training began in 1943 in Tuskegee, AL, in the Army-Air Force, and continued in Boca Raton, FL, St. Louis, MO, and a number of other military bases in the U.S.A. One of John’s proudest moments was being part of the selected ‘security escort’ for Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. John finished his tour of duty with the rank of Staff Sargent at Clark Field in the Philippines. He was discharged at Ft Meade, MD.
In 1946, he and his sister Winifred enrolled at Morgan State College (now University). They both graduated in 1950. John had secured a job at the Baltimore United States Post Office where he worked for 43 years, retiring in 1986. In addition, he also drove a taxi cab for 30 years. When asked why he drove a cab, John would say that he loved driving because he could meet all kinds of people from many walks of life and he could learn something from each person with whom he came in contact.
John married Myrtle Leary Thompson, his first wife, in 1948 and from that union Ann, Virlyn Patricia and Carol Elizabeth were born. John married Florence Thomas in 1962; no children were born from that union.
John was a man of simple pleasures. He loved good ‘down home cooking’, and a hearty breakfast was his favorite meal. He also loved a great social life of parties, fund raising events, political gatherings, graduations, any kind of family function, reunions, holiday celebrations, watching or listening to baseball, football and music. John loved to watch classic Westerns and Military movies. He watched television and listened to the radio often at the same time because he said he did not want to miss anything that was said or shown. He was an avid reader and could converse on just about any topic, especially history, current events, politics and the financial scene. He was passionate about voting and getting as much education as possible. Delivering food baskets during holiday times had a special place in his heart. John would take any opportunity he could to go back home to Reidsville, NC. He loved his family, friends and the organizations to which he was committed.
John’s strong sense of community led him to become involved in several organizations. Among these were the American Legion on the state and national levels; the American Legion Post #213; the NAACP; and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Beta Alpha Chapter and Delta Lambda Chapter. He held memberships in the Morgan State University Alumni Association. His favorite charity events were the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Martin Luther King Breakfast, American Legion Bull and Oyster Roasts and the Crab Feasts. John also received many national and local citations for his long years of service and memberships. He was especially proud of recognition from Union Baptist Church for over 60 years of membership and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity as a life member. Also, he was the first African American to serve as the American Legion Commander of Baltimore and he served as an Executive Committee Delegate earning him an American Legion White Cap, a very prestigious position.
John thought it essential to demonstrate leadership, excellence in education and integrity. His early religious training contributed to this mindset together with the wisdom and guidance of his ancestors as referenced in newsletters authored by his Uncle Azzie Briscoe "A.B." Koger. John sought to carry out "the charge" of the family during his lifetime, and he did. His achievements have strengthened the fabric of Koger family history.
John Franklin Koger, Jr. was a gentle man. John, Johnnie Boy, John Jr., Daddy, Uncle John, Pop Pop, and The Commander were all names he was affectionately called by family members and friends. He will long be remembered for his intellect, personality, his sense of humor and wit, his recall of family history and his ability to remember and tell all kinds of stories on about almost any subject. John F. Koger, Jr is survived by his three daughters: Ann Koger, Virlyn Patricia Koger, and Carol House; his wife, Florence Koger; five grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren; nieces: Jacqueline Fields, Barbara Prestwidge Bellinger, Beverly Barrett Carter (John), Delores Thompson Chapman, Georgette Chapman Phillips (Peter), Lucille Barrett (George); nephews: John J Oliver, Jr, Lemie Pickett, John Pickett, William Prestwidge, and a host of loving cousins, relatives and friends.