Peace keepers and keepers of the holiday spirit

West Milford. Mary and Bob Kochka are remembered at Christmas time as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

| 15 Dec 2021 | 06:52

For many years Bob and Mary (Gobosack) Kochka, original volunteers for the West Milford Museum group, dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Santa and greeted children at the museum, patiently listening to all they wanted to say.

Mary, age 91, recently passed away. Her husband predeceased her several years ago.

The Echo Lake School House

The couple were friends since their days in the eight grades at the two-room rural Echo Lake School House and then life partners.

While in the school Bob often had a leading role in plays, especially at Christmas. He served in the Army and was part of the occupation army sent to Japan when World War II ended.

When he returned home he told of the respect and friendship he had for the Japanese people who he said had little knowledge about politics and factors that caused the war.

Bob and Mary were peace keepers throughout their lives and where there was disagreement they would try to find peaceful solutions.

Supporters and contributors to the local local museum

At the museum Mary joined Bob in costume. The couple often also portrayed President Abe Lincoln and his wife Mary.

They were married at St. Joseph Church in 1948, spent more than 70 years as a couple and they raised their family at their home on Sawmill Road near the Tintle family homestead.

They were excited when Tonya Cubby’s efforts to establish a local museum came to fruition and they donated family items for display and volunteered in any way they were needed.

West Milford officials recognized their community service with a Volunteer of the Year award.

They spent years of service at St. Joseph church and cemetery. Before mechanical equipment was available, Bob dug graves by hand in all kinds of weather. Their devotion to their church was lifelong. Bob started out as an altar boy and as an adult was active in men’s groups. Mary was devoted to the Rosary Society. They are buried in St. Joseph Cemetery.

Their daughters are Catherine M. Kochka Thomas, Mary Ann Morrison and husband Ross, Lois Kochka and Peggy Anne Kochka. A son Robert Kochka is deceased. Mary and Bob took great pride in their 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

Mary was the daughter of the late George and Agnes (Crum) Gobosack. Bob’s mother’s family were the Tintles, early settlers who were prominent in development of the township from its earliest days.