Fontana success stories: The Koehlers: Community servants par excellence | News

Dr. Charles A. (Charlie) Koehler (Ed.D) was a giant of a man with the heart of a teddy bear.

His daughter, Janet Koehler-Brooks, was much more fortunate and inherited the “heart of a teddy bear” attribute only.

I have known the Koehlers going on 60 years now. I met Janet when we were students at Fontana Junior High School. And wow! Was she cute! It wasn’t until about three years ago that I told her she was my 8th grade crush.

I met Charlie in the late 1970s when I was teaching at Fontana Junior High, and he was a counselor at Alder Junior High. I never told him I had a crush on his daughter (See the “giant of a man” comment above).

—– CHARLIE was a proud World War II Army Air Corps veteran. He was discharged in 1948 after serving four years. That service was the harbinger of six more decades of service to others.

When asked about her fondest memories of her dad, Janet said, it was “his faith in Christianity and always putting family first.”

Charlie spent 20 years (five terms) on the Fontana City Council and was elected to his fourth four-year term as city treasurer when he passed in 2002. He was first elected to the Council in 1966. In the city’s history, no one held public office longer than he did at that time.

Charlie also served as the Council’s chaplain for those 20 years, and he also was on the City Council in Saginaw, Mich. for eight years in the 1950s. When elected, was the youngest person ever to sit on the Saginaw Council. He also served three years on the Saginaw County Board of Supervisors.

Charlie retired from the Fontana Unified School District, where he served as a school administrator, junior high school counselor and teacher for 27 years. Additionally, he was an instructor at Chaffey College for 19 years.

He participated in numerous civic and charitable organizations throughout his life as a member of the Board of Directors of the Fontana YMCA, Boy Scout merit badge counselor, and a Board member for the Fontana Area Chamber of Commerce.

He was recognized as Fontana’s “Citizen of the Year” and was president, lieutenant governor and international officer of the Kiwanis Club, where he spent 40 years in service to others.

Other organizations included the Fontana Art Association, Sons of Italy, Gridiron Club, Elks Lodge, Moose Lodge, VFW, American Legion, Fontana/California Teachers Association, Industrial Support Systems, AARP, Boy Scouts, and the Masons.

In October of 1998, the city officially recognized his efforts by dedicating the Dr. Charles A. Koehler Park in The Landings development in northwestern Fontana.

Charlie married Rosemary Todd in 1944, and the two were happily married for 58 years. They had three daughters — Nina, Janet and Nancy — along with four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Charlie died the day after Christmas in 2002. He was 80.

In 1979, Charlie and I were endorsed by the Greater Fontana Political Action Committee, and along with Jack Gilday, we were elected to four-year terms on the Fontana City Council in 1980.

During all those years, the only time I recall voting differently than Charlie was approving the massive Southridge Development. Charlie voted “yes” with the majority, I did not, and I was on the short end of the proverbial 4-1 stick.

One of Charlie’s greatest attributes was his ability to speak to an audience, all with different views, and they would all walk out thinking he agreed with them.

Charlie believed in a solid City Council majority, and, hopefully, unanimous votes in order to send a message of Council unity to the community. I had a contrary perspective and believed in voting according to my thoughts on the matter, even if it did not result in a unanimous vote.

That is NOT to say Charlie did not vote his conscience, as evidenced by his solid support of the committee that opposed bringing poker parlors to Fontana in the 1980s. (Nat Simon, the mayor at the time, was a strong proponent of this gambling initiative, which did not come to fruition.)

However, Charlie and I often joked about the fact that he never made anyone mad by his voting record. (I did!) In fact, when I left the Council in 1985, I gave Charlie a bumper sticker that read: “I love the middle of the road.”

—– KNOWING SHE would make her dad proud, in January 2003, Janet applied for and was appointed by the City Council to fill the city treasurer position left vacant by Charlie’s passing. She was elected in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010, 2014, 2018, and 2022. Her current term expires in November 2026.

As with many of our Fontana Success Stories, she is a proud Fontana High School graduate (Class of ’68).

Janet’s favorite class in school was band. When asked about her favorite memories of growing up in Fontana, Janet said “being active in church, being with family and attending community events.”

Janet has resided in Fontana since 1959, with the exception of the four years she spent in Hawaii and San Leandro in the late 1970s. She attended Fontana schools and returned to the school district as a teacher after her brief four-year hiatus and recently retired as a school counselor.

Janet has a Master’s Degree in Education from Cal State San Bernardino and a Bachelor’s Degree from Pepperdine University.

She was married to the late Richard Brooks and has two sons. Richard was Fontana’s inaugural code enforcement officer, a position created when Charlie and I sat on the Council. He was also a proud U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran.

Janet and I were “neighbors” of sort at Fontana Junior High, teaching next door to one another, where my students had to endure the constant din of Janet’s Home Economics washers and dryers coming from the shared hallway between our rooms.

As it relates to community service, the Koehler apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Janet’s lengthy public service resume includes membership in the California Municipal Treasurers Association, the Kiwanis Club of Fontana, the Fontana Art Association, Troop 502 of the Boy Scouts of America, trustee in the Fontana Woman’s Club, Friends of the Library, Fontana Historical Society, Community Emergency Response Team, Charles Koehler Amvets Post 1240 Ladies Auxiliary, California Association of School Counselors, Fontana Days Festival 100th Anniversary Committee, Special Olympics volunteer, Sons of Italy Joanne Coccia Lodge, and member of CrossPointe Community Church.

She is the recipient of the Kiwanis Family of the Year Award, Kiwanis-sponsored Youth Award, Kiwanis Distinguished Service Award, 63rd District Women of Distinction Award, and the Los Angeles County Fair Community Hero award. And recently, the Fontana Exchange Club honored her with a presentation of the club’s Book of Golden Deeds award, an honor reserved only for those whose commitment to the others far exceeds community expectations.

When I asked Janet to what she attributes her success, she said being raised in a wonderful Christian home.

The Charlie Koehler/Janet Koehler-Brooks Fontana Success Story tag team: undefeated in my eyes!

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