Al Koppel died in Fort Collins on Jan. 27. He was born on Sept. 13, 1926, in Hamburg, Germany.
Al was a former Greenwood Village City Councilman from November 1987 to November 1991, serving under Mayor Freda Poundstone from 1987-1989 and under Mayor Rollin Barnard from 1989 to 1991. He organized a sister-city program with Greenwood Village and a city in Israel. He worked on an exchange visit but it never materialized. He lived many years in Greenwood Village and moved to Fort Collins in 1993.
Al was a child of the Holocaust. In June 1941 at age 14, he and his brother, Walter, 13, escaped Nazi Germany. They were two of the last Jews who were able to do so. They traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., to reunite with their father who, after having been in a concentration camp, had been driven out of Germany the year before.
The day after his arrival, Al was hospitalized. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent alone to the National Jewish Hospital in Denver. He would spend the next three years there. He was cured of his illness, learned English, completed high school, and won a scholarship to the University of Colorado Boulder.
In that same year, his mother, two brothers and two sisters were murdered by the Nazis. He did not talk about this for more than 50 years.
Al met Jean Herbert while in college. They married and had five children, Karla, Morgan, Katie, Craig and Mitchell. Jean died on May 7, 1997. He is survived by his children Karla, Craig and Mitchell, seven grandchildren, one step grandchild, and two great grandchildren.
Al spent his professional career with Samsonite Corporation traveling the world. He set out to discover what exactly had happened to his mother and siblings. His journey took him on successive trips to Germany and, finally, to Lithuania. He stood there, at a desolate place called the Ninth Fort, looking in the ravine where his murdered family, grasping each other, had fallen.
Al published his book, My Heroic Mother: Voices From the Holocaust in 2010. He brought honor to them through his writings.
A memorial service was held at Congregation Har Shalom in Fort Collins on March 3. Donations may be made to National Jewish Hospital, Denver, CO, or the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., in Al’s memory.
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