Remembering Dave Koerber

Dave Koerber on the Appalachian Trail.

I’m sad to report that my good friend Dave Koerber passed away yesterday. Dave had triple bypass surgery a little over a week ago and came through the surgery extremely well. He was recovering and was at home when he had a stroke and died a few days later. I talked with him a few hours before he had the stroke and he was in great spirits, anxious to get back out on the trail. This is a great shock to me; Dave and I had gotten close over the past few years and we enjoyed each other’s company, hiking and doing trail work.

In the summer of 2012 I was hiking down the Race Brook Falls trail in southern Massachusetts and ran into three members of the Berkshire (Massachusetts) Appalachian Mountain Club. They asked me if I’d seen the log bridge that crosses Race Brook above the falls and what shape it was in. In fact, the bridge was broken and hikers were crossing Race Brook in the water, which is what I told them. They told me who they were and that they were going up to scout out rebuilding the bridge. This sounded interesting to me so I asked if they needed help. They said they’d love help and we exchanged contact information.

It took numerous trips up the Race Brook Falls trail to rebuild the bridge which was a wonderful experience. The leader of the project was Jim Pelletier who was the head of the Berkshire group at the time. Dave Koerber was on many of these trips although I didn’t know him as well at the time.

Dave Koerber (left) and Jim Pelletier lifting a hemlock log that will be half of the new Race Brook bridge.

After we finished the bridge I was asked to become the maintainer of the Race Brook Falls trail which is a “blue trail” which connects up to the Appalachian Trail in southern Massachusetts. Never having maintained a trail I needed to be trained and my trainer was Dave Koerber, the Overseeer of all of the various maintainers from the Connecticut/Massachusetts border to an area just above Great Barrington (the bottom third of the state).

Dave on the AT near Mt. Everett, Massachusetts.

Dave on Mt. Everett, Massachusetts.

Dave taught me how to build and repair water bars, how to blaze, how to clear blowdowns and a lot more. I was also learning from other members of the Berkshire group but Dave was my direct “boss” as he oversaw my section of trail and we spent the most time on the trail together. And, he was retired as I am so we had time to get out on the trail mid-week to avoid crowds.

He was an excellent teacher, he knew more than I did but he allowed me, a person with plenty of outdoor experience to try whatever I wanted and if my way was better than his way, he was glad to adopt my way.

Dave (left) and Dave McCullough crossing a beaver dam at Pine Swamp in Connecticut.

Dave and I enjoyed doing trail work together over many years. But, we also enjoyed just being out hiking or snowshoeing together and if both of us were around and one called and wanted to get out, we’d make it happen even though we live a good distance from one another. It was easy to meet half-way but I was glad to hike nearer to him and he came down to Connecticut to hike trails I maintain down here as well.

Three years ago another section of trail opened up, the Appalachian Trail between Sage’s Ravine (the Connecticut border) and Mt. Race. This is one of the most scenic sections of the AT in southern New England and I decided to move from Race Brook Falls to maintaining that section, which I still maintain. This section was also under Dave’s leadership and so, not much changed between us. Dave helped me get set up on the section and we did a lot of work on it over the past few years.

Dave and Loren Kahn on the south ridge of Mt. Race (my new section of Appalachian trail).

Dave and I were on opposite sides of the political divide and while politics certainly came up on our hikes, we both decided that while those issues were important, it was more important to remain friends and get out on the trail where political issues can easily be put in a box and tossed aside. We did that successfully over many years and while I guess I played a part in making that truce, he was so good-natured that it was easy to like him no matter what he thought about anything.

Dave was a great hiking partner and friend and I miss him. I guess the best medicine for this is to get back out on the trail but of course, I’ll miss him there too.

Life is fragile, treasure it.

Dave crossing the Race Brook bridge in winter. This is the bridge we rebuilt years earlier when I first met him.

20 comments

    1. He made a big impact on trails for sure, and he made an even bigger impact on me and many other folks who worked with him. You’d have liked him, an engineer through and through. Very analytical and that’s a great way to learn trail work.

  1. Richard he sounds a kindred spirit and I’m sure he’ll be sadly missed.

    Folk come into our lives all the time, some stay longer than others and also leave deeper emotional connections. That first meeting led to a wonderful friendship which recognised in each of you different views but a common desire to make a difference.

    I also believe that when you make special bonds with folk they remain with you always. Yes physically they have gone but spiritually they are part of you and so remain real in the truest sense.

    My thoughts are with you

    1. Thanks Cosmo. You knew him longer and no doubt better than me but over the past few years he and I spent more and more time hiking and working together and we both enjoyed it.

  2. Richard, this is a skilled and heartfelt tribute to Dave. The prose and photos are poignant and a fitting testament to what is truly important is this age of polarization and lack of comity. Dave’s spirit is alive and, if spirits smile, it’s grinning because of the bridges the two of you built on the trail and across the political divide. RIP Mr. Koerber.

    1. Thanks Bill. Well said. We built a trail (maybe better: a bridge) across our political divide but we were able to hike and work without crossing it much. Good to have a bridge like that.

  3. Richard, I am married to Dave’s niece, Jayne Perry. Thank you for taking the time to write this post about him. We’d get together for lunch two or three times a year and I’d always ask about his latest hiking trip as I hiked a lot in my early twenties. He’d share stories but your account helped us better understand the passion he had for this hobby. I hiked a lot in my teens and early twenties but never on the scale of what Dave did and we never got out on the trail together. I appreciate your taking the time to write this, it has had an impact.

    1. Thanks for commenting Matt. Dave loved being in the woods, it was his therapy. I was delighted that he considered me a kindred spirit. We had our differences but we always enjoyed being out on the trail together.

  4. I am so pleased to hear about Dave’s influence on you and the impact he had on you and the AT. I am kind of related to Dave through his wife Ann and I wish I had gone hiking with him but I was a little intimidated by his expertise. I have hiked a little in my younger years and when I had my dog Roker a few years back.
    Dave loved the outdoors and was a great guy even though he was on the other side of me politically as well. He took good care of himself and deserved to live longer. I did go golfing with him and our buddy and bro in law Paul, who also passed from an anuerism last year.
    So as Paul was fond of saying I hope both of them are “on the hill but on the level” whatever the hell that means.
    Love and condolences. George

    1. Thanks for commenting here George. It’s wonderful that while Dave was a died in he wool conservative, he was so good natured that folks like us could easily get close to him. No doubt hill and level is some kind of golf reference. Who knows?

  5. Richard,

    That is a beautiful remembrance of a great kind person with a love of the outdoors as well of life in general.

    I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know Dave when he represented Cutler Hammer and called on Northeast Utilities. Dave went above and beyond for his customers.

    But more than the business side, he became a friend. I always enjoyed talking to him. Listening to his stories and experiences.

    I will miss him.

    Cory Morgan

  6. So very sorry to hear of this, my husband and I only met him last year at the AMC Gathering, Where we signed up to be trail volunteers. We emailed back and forth after that meeting, had a date set up but he was unable to make it due to health reasons. But from his emails I could get the passion he had for trail maintenance. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

    1. Dave was a very good natured guy who was an evangelist for the Appalachian Trail and the appreciation all of the various maintainers under his stewardship showed at that meeting was telling.

      It was me who met you and Wayne out on Everett that day (in his stead) and we walked your section together and did some work. I hope you and your husband will continue your work on your section of trail.

  7. I have many fond memories and walk and talks with Dave. His efforts to find balance in trail management and maintenance projects, and his good natured presence and outlook on life (and retirement) were great conversation points. I just hope he got to break those Limmar’s on the Trail for his big hike up there in the sky. He will be missed. -Silvia Cassano, Bennington, VT

    1. He never got the Limmars broken in Silvia, but he sure gave it a good try. Indeed he is already being missed mightily by everyone he worked with. Hope you’re doing well these days yourself.

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