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Article published September 16, 2013
Ex-Zelie man dies in deadly D.C. shooting
A former Zelienople man was one of the dozen people who died Monday in the shooting rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Frank Kohler, 50, of Tall Timbers, Md., was a Seneca Valley High School graduate and a 1985 Slippery Rock University graduate with a bachelor’s degree. He majored in computer science. He transferred to SRU in 1983 and commuted from Zelienople. Kohler’s brother, Harvey Kohler, is the electric superintendent for Zelienople. He and his wife are in Maryland to be with his brother’s family and other relatives, according to borough officials. Kohler was killed by Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee with a defense contractor. He used a valid pass to get into the highly secured installation Monday morning and started firing inside a building. He was killed in a gun battle with police. The motive for the mass shooting is a mystery. Jack Pappas is president of the Lexington Park Rotary Club, the same club Kohler belonged to and where he was president several years ago. Pappas said he and the rest of the community are still reeling from shock over the news that Kohler was one of the victims. “It affects the whole community,” Pappas said. “We’re not that big of a community, a place where people know each other. And Frank was very active in our community.” Pappas said that Kohler, whose residence is listed as Tall Timbers, Md., on the Rotary’s website, was a “just a really great man.” The president also said his Rotary Club is in the early stages of organizing a fundraiser or other event to benefit Kohler’s wife and two daughters. Pappas said the club has more than 100 members. Kohler had proudly held the title of “King Oyster” at the annual festival celebrating the region’s signature bivalve the third weekend of each October. “He walks around with a crown and robe and gives out candy,” said Bob Allen, Kohler’s former boss at Lockheed Martin in southern Maryland. “In fact, he was in charge of the beer stand. I used to have that job, and when I left, I handed it off to him.” The married father of two college-age daughters had driven up to the Washington Navy Yard for a meeting Monday when the shootings occurred, friends told Allen. Allen said Kohler had taken over for him as site manager for the defense contractor, but he was unsure what business his friend had at the Navy Yard. Allen said Kohler was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and an avid, though not overly skilled, golfer. “He could probably shoot in the low 90s,” Allen said Tuesday morning from Bradenton, Fla. When Allen retired, Kohler picked his gift, a gold pocket watch with the inscription, “From your friends in Lockheed Martin to help you putt into the future.” Kohler lived on the water with his wife, Michelle, an employee at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Allen said his friend loved to boat and fish, and went on frequent hunting trips to Canada. “A great family man, a Christian, and a great friend,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem possible. I mean, you hear about these things all the time ... But when you know somebody, it just makes it all the worse ... It’s a Huge loss for southern Maryland.”