Joel Koemptgen


Age 79, died peacefully due to complications of Lewy Body Dementia on March 3, 2023. He was born to Joseph and Elizabeth Koemptgen on August 11, 1943, in St. Paul, MN and grew up in St. Paul. He graduated from Cretin High School in 1961, attended St. Paul Seminary, and then served in the Peace Corps in Korea (1967-68). He later earned a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and went on to a successful career in Medical Administration at Duluth Clinic, Ramsey Hospital in St. Paul, and St. Mary’s Duluth Clinic (SMDC) where he was Senior Vice-President of Regional Planning and Marketing.

Joel was very active in the Duluth and broader Minnesota community, serving on the Minnesota state boards of Nature Conservancy and Audubon Society. He was appointed to the Minnesota Forest Resources Council by Governor Tim Pawlenty. He was also active with United Way, the Gnesen Township Planning Commission, Men As Peacemakers, and Great Woods North (a non-profit environmental project).

He met his wife, Catherine (Pinkerton) Koemptgen, on a blind date in 1969, and they married later that year in a double wedding with Catherine’s sister, Judith, and her love, Ron Josephson. Joel was a kind and supportive husband, father, and grandfather. His ability to engage and support others through the art of listening made him a remarkable mentor and friend. Joel was an inquisitive, lifelong learner who had a gentle but clever wit and will be remembered for his engaging presence. He loved spending time with his family and friends, including his long-time Tuesday morning coffee group and his Men’s Book Club.

After his retirement, the couple lived on Sunshine Lake in Duluth surrounded by natural beauty and Joel’s many gardens. Joel delighted in nature. He cherished his trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) with friends and time spent with Catherine at East Bearskin Lake.

Joel is survived by his beloved wife of more than 53 years, Catherine; children, Melissa (Charlie) Irick and Andrea (Cathy) Sherwin; grandchildren, Alex (Aliya) Irick, Ben Irick, Belle Irick, Tommy Sherwin, and Nora Sherwin. The family would like to express their deep appreciation to the staff at Lincolnshire Place in Sycamore, IL for their exceptional care.

Joel’s life will be celebrated privately by his family. Donations in memory of Joel M. Koemptgen may be sent directly to Nature Conservancy of Minnesota in Joel’s name.

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