John William Koster
December 4, 1947 (Lakewood, Ohio) – March 14, 2018 (McMinnville, Oregon)
John Koster died on March 14th, at the age of 70, due to complications from COPD. He died, much as he lived in his later days, napping somewhat noisily while surrounded by family and friends speaking fondly of him and his works on this earth. His passing was calm, pain free, and in the presence of his children.
John was born in Lakewood, Ohio, the fifth of six children of Elmer William and Geraldine Veronica (Stanton) Koster. He attended St. James School (1953-1961) and St. Edwards High School (1961-1965) in Lakewood, where he lettered in cross-country. He and his siblings spent many happy summer days at the family cottage on Sandusky Bay in Lake Erie, which is where his love of canoeing began.
In 1968, choosing to act before being drafted, John left college at Cleveland State University and entered the Navy where he was selected as Honor Man by his shipmates. While stationed at the Philadelphia Naval Base, he applied for Conscientious Objector status, submitting in an application that he had serious “doubts about the morality of participating in war”. At the time, the military services only recognized objection to war when rooted in a religious belief, a rule that excluded Roman Catholics. After an initial denial by the Navy, with the help of the ACLU, John took his appeal to Federal Court and won; a judge ruling that he was sincere enough in his beliefs to earn status as a conscientious objector. His case helped set legal precedent that a person is entitled to CO status if their pacifism is real, regardless of their religious beliefs. Even at 21, John’s strength of will and integrity led him to take the path of his convictions, despite significant personal effort and risk.
After leaving the Navy, John returned to college in Massachusetts, where he met Andy Scott and the two made the decision to roam the country in a school bus, hung with a sign that read “If we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke”. The bus got them as far as Oregon, where they settled at Ithilien, a commune in the hills outside of Willamina. It was at Ithilien that John met Glenna Jean Ness, with whom he had two children and 17 mostly good years.
John spent his career building custom homes and commercial buildings in and around Yamhill County, and his life as a wood craftsman. He leaves a legacy of beautiful things; from his kid’s childhood beds to the piece of wood that saved his life during a slide down a steep barn roof, and many buildings, including several houses with Habitat for Humanity, as well as local wineries: Winter’s Hill, August Cellars, and the Carlton Winemaker’s Studio.
John’s decision to address his alcoholism began in June of 1989 and became an enduring and profound part of his life. In his nearly 29 years of sobriety, he helped to run many regular Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and became a mentor and friend to many in the community. This community came to be very much a part of his family; sharing with him his late partner, Cassy Hanson, and supporting him through the joys and sorrows of living and aging.
In all aspects of his life, John was a builder. He expressed his love for people through his faith that we can all do better for ourselves and each other, and he generously shared his knowledge and skills with others, supporting them in building the lives he believed they deserved.
He is preceded in death by his parents, and his partner, Doreen ‘Cassy’ Hanson, who broke his heart when she died of cancer in 2014.
John is survived by the mother of his children, Glenna Green, his daughter Megan Corvus, her wife Talina Corvus, and their child, Archimedes Corvus, his son Thaddeus Koster and his partner Zippy Lomax, Cassy’s children Jordan, Elizabeth, and Jacob, and by his siblings Francis (Carol), Daniel (Sally), Diane Marquard (Robert), JoAnne Scullin (Vincent, deceased), and Thomas (Christine).
A celebration of John’s life will be held on April 8th, 2pm in the basement of the First Baptist Church of McMinnville, where he spent many evenings over the last 29 years. Friends, family, and acquaintances are encouraged to bring stories to share. Those unable to attend in person may share photos or stories at http://johnkosterbuilder.me. Gifts in memory of John may be sent to Henderson House, hendersonhouse.org, PO Box 26 McMinnville, OR 97128, or to the scholarship in memory of Cassy Hanson, at https://chemeketa.thankyou4caring.org/give — select ‘Other’ and type in Cassy’s Hope.