May 10, 1941 – December 20, 2017
Leona Ann Kocher died Dec. 20, 2017 at the home of her sister’s family in Zion, IL, after a long illness.
Funeral Mass for Leona Ann Kocker was held Saturday December 30, 2017 at Our Lady Of Lourdes Catholioc Church 506 West Missouri St Oblong, IL. Burial followed in St. Valentine Cemetery in rural Jasper County. In memory of Leona, the family requestes that an expression of sympathy may take the form of a contribution to The American Cancer Society and may be mailed to Pulliam Funeral Home, P.O. Box 121, Oblong, IL 62449. Condolences and or memories may be sent to the family at oblongfuneralhome.com.
Leona was born May 10, 1941, the third surviving child of Leona Geiger Kocher and Elmer Joseph Kocher. Leona Ann grew up on the family farm in the Bend community southwest of Oblong, IL, and was a member of the St. Valentine’s Church congregation there. She attended the elementary and high schools in Oblong and went on to obtain Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL.
During her formative years, Leona Ann learned the art of sewing fabrics and designing clothes beside her mother her and through the U of I 4-H extension. She entered the Singer Sewing Machine Company contest twice and won two sewing machines and a college scholarship. Leona received a Masters degree from the University of Illinois in clothing and textiles, after university, she was employed by a Sears, Roebuck laboratory in Chicago to test fabrics and their suitability for use in Sears, Roebuck products. Later, she took a teaching position with the Texas Tech Home Economics Department in Lubbock, TX. Following several years there, she attended the University of California at Davis graduate school, obtaining a PhD in Home Economics in 1979. Since UC Davis had no program in textile technology, which was her primary interest, she wrote a 396-page dissertation on the economic impact of proposed regulations on the flammability of textiles for upholstered furniture.
After obtaining her PhD, Leona Ann took teaching positions with the Home Economics faculties at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and after some years there, at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Several times she served as an expert witness in trials arising from deaths due to pajamas burning.
Around 1990, she returned to the family farm to decide what to do next, and she decided to stay. She became active in the management of the farm and the care giver for her aging parents. She also pursued her interest in fabrics and design through quilting and various quilting groups. She became the repository for family lore, developing an encyclopedic accumulation of family genealogy, and organizing family reunions.
After the passing of her father and mother in 1998 and 2004, respectively, Leona Ann continued living at and managing Home Acres Farms. In early 2008, she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and underwent surgery, followed by years of follow-up chemo treatments. Her survival for nearly 10 years after diagnosis is exceptional for this disease. During this time she continued caring for the farm, creating new quilting patterns, and meeting with other quilters.
Leona Ann frequently led the music during services at St. Valentine’s in the Bend and Our Lady of Lourdes in Oblong. She was known for her wry sense of humor, delivered with a twinkle in her eyes.
An example is a ditty she composed in her later years, complete with a melody line that plays on the Kocher family penchant for perfectionism:
Let’s Do It My Way
by Leona Ann Kocher
Let’s do it my way,
I know what is best;
Let’s do it my way,
It always works for me;
I know the right way,
For I’m a Kocher too;
Let’s do it my way,
I know what’s best for you!
Leona is survived by her older brothers, David and George Kocher; her younger sister, Mary Ellen Sell, and eight nieces and nephews. The family wishes to thank the many relatives, friends and neighbors who have provided so much kind assistance to Leona Ann during her final years.