This is how Robert “Kelly” Koers spent the last two days of his life.
On Saturday, the former truck driver, his once-trim body emaciated by stomach cancer, boarded a plane to San Diego. His cousin was getting married there, and months ago Koers vowed to her that he would live to see her wed.
On Sunday, he garnered the rest of his diminishing energy so that he might spend with his family one final, meaningful Father’s Day.
The next afternoon, Koers died in his mother’s arms, with his father beside him and his sister holding his hand. He was 26 years old.
Indeed, surrounded and embraced by familial love is how Koers spent most of his last months. Knowing he was going to die, but not knowing when, the young man and his mother drove nearly 4,000 miles — from California
to Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado — to tour temple sites and to see relatives one last time.
“Most of the purpose was to share some time together and see family. We shared so many beautiful sights and experiences,” said his mother, Connie Koers, Human Resources Manager at The Californian. And shortly after they returned in May, Koers traveled to his hometown of Canton, Mich., for a family reunion. By that time he was severely weakened, his mother said. “He was in bed 80 percent of the time. But he toughed it out,” she said.
But, Connie Koers said, it was her son’s final acts of family commitment that made her realize the true force of his spirit. “He held on and he fought and we went to that wedding. He did it because he promised her he’d be there,” she said. “That’s the kind of dignity and strength and courage that that boy had.”
Born in Canton, Kelly moved to Bakersfield with his mother 11 years ago. He graduated from Bakersfield High School and joined the U.S. Navy where he served as a firefighter. He was a truck driver for B.F.I. Truck Co.
for two years before surgeries and chemotherapy treatments took their physical toll. In April, Bakersfield friends and residents helped ease the Koers’ financial burden with money they donated during a barbecue benefit hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #97. By that time, Kelly openly acknowledged that he would not live much longer. Surrounded by crowds of loved ones at the barbecue, he told them, “There’s no telling how much longer I’ve got, so I want to spend it with family and friends.”
In addition to his mother, Koers is survived by his father, Robert Koers of Michigan; his sister, Terri Lee Paslawsky of San Diego; and his grandparents, Everett and Virginia Koers of Florida.