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JBLM's Joseph Koczur, Jr. is Volunteer of the Month

Giving to the Museum

Joseph Koczur, Jr. serves as a volunteer and board member for the Friends of the Fort Lewis Military Museum on Lewis North. (JBLM PAO photo)

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Growing up at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one reason Friends of the Fort Lewis Army Military Museum volunteer Joseph Koczur, Jr. enjoys spending time at the Lewis Army Museum. Taking over where his late father, longtime Friends of the Fort Lewis Army Military Museum volunteer Joseph Koczur, Sr. left off, is another.

The younger Koczur is JBLM’s January Volunteer of the Month. Each month JBLM honors one volunteer from its more than 300 community service opportunities on or around the installation.

Koczur has been the secretary of the Friends of the Fort Lewis Army Military Museum since 2004, when he retired and returned to the area to care for his then-ailing parents. Prior to that, his father served in the same capacity for the museum. The elder Koczur died of congestive heart failure in 2008.

“Joseph (Jr.) is a military aficionado,” said Synthia Santos, assistant volunteer coordinator for the museum. “He was brought up immersed in Army culture, and he took his place on the (museum) board when his father died,” she said, adding that Koczur also volunteers with the museum’s gift store.

“He loves to do research on Army equipment and macro artifacts. He is very supportive and patient; he’s great with the customers,” she said.

Koczur’s father was in the Army and retired in 1968 at JBLM, where he spent most of his military career.

Joseph Koczur, Sr. and his wife, Ayako, were at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Ga. in 1953 when their only child — a son — was born.

The family moved to JBLM in 1959, where Koczur began kindergarten at Beachwood Elementary School. He later graduated from Clover Park High School and earned a degree in marine ecology from The Evergreen State College in 1976.

After college, Koczur joined the Peace Corps and served two years in fisheries development projects in the Solomon Islands. He was hired as a marine science technician for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and worked for 10 years with fisheries enforcement at Marine Research Laboratories in the Kodiak, Ala.

Koczur also worked for the U.S. Fisheries Department for a couple years in Guam and 10 years in San Francisco, before moving within the department to Newport, Ore., where he retired in 2004.

He returned to Lakewood in 2004, where he now lives, to help care for his parents.

“I came home, but JBLM has always felt like home,” Koczur said.

His work with the museum primarily involves handling paperwork and working on the current membership drive for the Friends of the Fort Lewis Army Military Museum. That work is vital, Koczur said, because the group has about 130 members, but most are life members, so membership funds are not coming into the organization.

Taking over for his dad with the museum’s board and volunteering at the museum was a natural transition, he said.

“My dad loved people; he loved to talk to people, and that’s one of the fun things about working with the

museum (gift) shop,” Koczur said.

He told stories of veterans visiting the museum and breaking down in tears when opening up, often for the first time, about their military service.

“This is an amazing place,” Koczur said.

Although the museum is currently under renovation, Koczur and other volunteers are busy getting ready for what’s expected to be an April reopening. The museum board also is looking for new volunteers, especially for board leadership, since one member is retiring and many are older, Koczur said.

In addition to a love of military history, and reading about various wars, Koczur enjoys reading science fiction and eating sushi.

“My mom was Japanese,

so I grew up eating sushi,” he said.

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