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Published: Friday, 7/8/2011

Pamela Graver-Koenig, 1955-2011: Teacher, coach was renowned distance runner


ELMORE -- Pamela Graver-Koenig of Elmore, an award-winning runner who spent time teaching and coaching children and accomplished the uncommon feat of running a marathon in under three hours, died Monday at the University of Toledo's Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio. She was 56.

She died from complications during a four-year struggle with breast cancer, her husband, Brian Koenig, said.

A graduate of Cardinal Stritch High School and then the University of Toledo, Mrs. Graver-Koenig became a Title I teacher for Toledo Public Schools, teaching math and reading to elementary students, most recently at Gesu School.

Her brother, Jim Graver, said Mrs. Graver-Koenig always wanted to help kids.

"She just thought that was her vocation, to help with kids. She was very creative and always came up with good ideas and wanted to teach kids things," Mr. Graver said. "She would always develop new ways to try and help them learn."

Mrs. Graver-Koenig was also very athletic. At the time of her death, she was Woodmore Middle School's track and cross country coach, and was formerly a cross country and track coach for Rossford Schools.

Her passion for running, however, was one that began far before her coaching days, and reached even farther beyond.

Her husband said she originally got involved with running around the age of 18 through her brothers, Bill and Bob.

Her brother, Bill, sparked her interest by getting involved with running as a way to stay fit. He said that it was because of the feeling he got when the endorphins started kicking in that he stayed with it.

"It gives you a high and a real good feeling about yourself," Mr. Graver said.

Mrs. Graver-Koenig and her brother Bob stuck with running after Bill moved away. They joined together to run competitively and try to beat each other's times.

"It just became so rewarding to her," Mr. Graver said. "She took it to great lengths. She did marathons, triathlons, any kind of athletic challenge, she just really got into it."

Both Mr. Koenig and Mr. Graver said that what Mrs. Graver-Koenig enjoyed most about running was the people.

"They challenge and feed off each other and it became a great bond between runners," Mr. Graver said.

One bond in particular proved to be far more special and was created at a Sylvania triathlon.

"She was working for Dave's Running Shop, and I was in the triathlon," Mr. Koenig said. "We met there and she gave me a Nike running hat."

A year and a half later, they had their first date.

Both Mr. Koenig and his wife would run together and could finish a 10K race in about the same time.

In 1999, the couple moved to Oregon and Mrs. Graver-Koenig served as race director of the Toledo Marathon for several years. She was also a member of the Toledo Roadrunners, Team Toledo Triathlon Club, and Dave's Racing Team.

Mrs. Graver-Koenig participated in several marathons including in Boston and Las Vegas where she reached an impressive milestone -- completing the 26.2 mile race in under three hours, which is uncommon for female runners.

Mrs. Graver-Koenig was also the recipient of the Sy Mah award, given in honor of Thian K. "Sy" Mah, an assistant professor of physical education at the University of Toledo and a Canadian long-distance running who held the Guinness World Record for the most marathons ran in a lifetime. Established in 1990, the award is given to the runner who completes at least 100 miles and runs the most even 50-mile splits.

Mr. Graver's wife, Joanie, said her sister-in-law was a very kind and gentle person.

"She cared about everybody and I didn't ever see her get upset," Mrs. Graver said. "The world needs more people like her."

Survivors include her husband, Brian; daughter, Elizabeth; son, Paul; stepson, John; and brothers, James, William, Robert, and Jerry Graver.

Friends may call from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Crosser Funeral Home, Elmore-Genoa Chapel, 19550 West State Rt. 51.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 204 Main St., Genoa.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Soloman Lutheran School, Gesu School, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, or the Woodmore High School and Middle School cross country programs.

Contact Payton Willey at: paytonwilley@theblade.com or 419-724-6065

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