This was the update from Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, a fabulous amusement/water park in Southern Indiana:
We are heartbroken. Our beloved leader, Will Koch, passed away last night. We believe it was due to his Type 1 diabetes. Please say a prayer for the family and for all of us here at the park. He was so much more than a boss, he was a dear, sweet friend. As we know he would have wanted, the park will be open today and we'll all try our best to smile and provide wonderful memories to the families who visit us. And also as Will wanted, the park will remain owned and operated by his family.
I'm not one to get all upset by celebrity deaths (although I will admit to watching Princess Di's funeral) and I know that Will Koch (pronounced "cook") was not your Hollywood-type celeb. But I have to say that the news of his passing was like a sucker punch. I didn't see it coming and it left me feeling for a moment as if I couldn't breathe.
Will Koch was not a friend of mine. I may have met him once at the Grand Opening gala for the Children's Museum of Evansville, which was started by my mother-in-law and is named for the Koch family. But I'm saddened by the news of his death. I think it speaks volumes about the spirit and the atmosphere of Holiday World that I -- and the more than 500 people who've already left a comment on Holiday World's Facebook page -- feel like we've lost one of our own.
If you've never been to Holiday World, let me tell you that it is one of the cleanest, most family-friendly destinations you could ask for. The gate fees and concession prices are reasonable. Soft drinks and sunscreen are free in unlimited quantities. It's home to three of the country's top-ranked wooden roller coasters.
On any given day, you could find Will and his mother Pat out in the park, in their Holiday World polos and khaki shorts, doing whatever needed to be done -- sweeping the ground, pitching in at Kringle's Cafe or filling in for a bass player who had to go graduate from high school, as Will is doing in this video (he's the one on the right):
Indeed, it's a sad day at Holiday World and in the hearts of everyone who has ever created lasting memories there. God bless you, Will.