Obituary: Detlev Koepke, JP activist

March 19, 2015
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Detlev Alain Koepke, a longtime Jamaica Plain community activist, died Feb. 2, 2015 after a long battle with metastatic prostate cancer.

Detlev was born on June 23, 1956 at Kandang Kerbau Hospital in Singapore. He spent his early childhood in Munich, Germany, and immigrated to the United States at age 9. After graduating from the liberal arts honors program at the University of Texas at age 19, and attending Columbia University’s Ph.D. history program on a full scholarship (he obtained a master’s degree), Detlev moved to Boston in 1983 to attend Harvard Divinity School.

In his 30-plus years in Jamaica Plain, Detlev was very active in the local community, in many creative, academic and social justice pursuits. He participated and performed in international folk-dancing troupes, sang in the Dedham Choral Society, and formed a number of recorder performance groups.

Detlev was a lecturer of history and philosophy for over two decades at Bunker Hill Community College and Bridgewater State University. To further his research interests on the Gospel of Thomas, he taught himself Coptic (on top of the German, French and Spanish he already commanded), which led to his book “Jesus the Mystical Philosopher: The Gospel of Thomas as a Spiritual Guide.”

Detlev was a neighborhood and social activist, helping found and run one of the first community gardens in Jamaica Plain; serving on the Neighborhood Council; organizing one of the first GMO-labeling campaigns in the country; pushing for local recycling programs; teaching community yoga classes; and being active in local food co-ops (as a member of the board of directors of the Harvest Co-Op), including a grassroots effort to start a new co-op in Roslindale.

Detlev is survived by his children David and Rachel Koepke, both of Jamaica Plain, and four siblings. A memorial service will be held at the First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist, at 9:30 a.m. on March 28.

Detlev Koepke. (Courtesy Photo)

Detlev Koepke. (Courtesy Photo)

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