WILLIAM W. KOEHNLEIN (1949-2017)
William (Bill) W. Koehnlein, life-long peace and social justice activist, organizer and educator, died in Manhattan on November 19, 2017, after a long, courageous struggle with colon cancer.
A native New Yorker, Bill was born May 10, 1949, and spent the first six years of his life in the Payson Avenue section of Manhattan (1949-51) and in Elmhurst, Queens (1951-55), where he attended kindergarten at P.S. 89. For the next twelve years, he lived in Huntington Station, Long Island, subsequently moving to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, his main residence until his death.
He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Marie-Claire Picher; his son, Lyle Koehnlein, and daughter-in-law, Jessica Weiser; his mother, Joyce Johnson Koehnlein; two sisters—Janice Van Horne and Margaret Guiliano; his brother, John Koehnlein; two sisters-in-law—Patricia Di Grado Koehnlein and Annette Picher; three brothers-in-law—Philip Guiliano, Harry Van Horne and Edward Blechner; three nieces—Keely Guiliano, Zoey Guiliano and Selina Koehnlein; six nephews—Ry Guiliano, Zachary Guiliano, Delaney Guiliano, Kieran Koehnlein, Matthew Van Horne, Daniel Picher Fisher; his ex-wife, Sandra Gallagher Kynes; and many cousins and friends. He was pre-deceased by his father, William V. Koehnlein, and grandparents—Karl Koehnlein, Kristina Piskla Koehnlein, Viora Andren and Wayne Johnson.
Bill was a warm, humble, honest and compassionate person. Throughout his adult life, he worked primarily as a freelance book editor and indexer. A political actor, he radically opposed the culture of capitalism both as a writer and organizer committed to grass-roots movement-building for systemic change. In his interactions with people from all walks of life, he espoused and embodied an alternative culture of solidarity. The projects and actions in which Bill was involved from the 1960s on reached across the ideological spectrum of the Left—anarchism, socialism, communism, while sharing a common goal: promoting revolutionary consciousness and practice. For example:
1) Bill demonstrated with SDS at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
2) From the 1960s to the late 1980s, he was an active member of the anarchist community. During this period of time, a) he participated in the Free School movement as a member of the collective that ran Free Space/Alternate University (in the A. J. Muste building and on 14th Street); b) he was a member of the Libertarian Book Club; and c) in the early 1980s, he co-founded the Anarchist Switchboard (East 9th Street/Second Avenue in Manhattan), a three-year project partly modeled on the original Free Space.
3) Since the 1960s, he actively supported the War Resisters League.
4) From the late 1980s until his death, Bill was an active member and constant supporter of the Brecht Forum/New York Marxist School, and subsequently, the Marxist Education Project.
5) He was the administrator of the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) (late 1990s – 2017).
6) For three years, he volunteered weekly at the Earth Matter NY Compost Learning Center, on Governors Island, caring for the chickens.
7) He was a working member of the Fourth Street Food Co-op in Manhattan.
Bill lived a full life with integrity. He also touched hearts and minds with his encyclopedic knowledge and wit. He did extensive research on many subjects, including organic farming and sustainable agriculture, edible mushrooms, alternative medicine and the politics of food. He was also an animal whisperer and defender of animal rights who vigorously promoted the health and ecological benefits of the vegan diet. He fed birds and squirrels, loved crows, brushed his cat, gazed at the moon, climbed rocks, and felt at home in the woods and on mountain hiking trails. Bill will be lovingly remembered by his family and friends as an engaging raconteur; a writer of both incisive political commentary and whimsical fiction; a disseminator of information—news, films, music, recipes; an accomplished photographer; a lover of music ranging from Wagnerian operas to John Coltrane and Sun Ra; and a creative vegan cook.
Bill's family would like to thank the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Hospice and Palliative Care Program for their invaluable support. We request that any monetary contributions in memory of Bill be sent to The War Resisters League, The Marxist Education Project or The Catholic Worker.
"I believe that all the truly revolutionary theatrical groups should transfer to the people the means of production in the theater so that the people themselves may utilize them. The theater is a weapon, and it is the people who should wield it. —Augusto Boal