Greeley mourns prominent community members Bob and Monica Kahn
Longtime Greeley residents Dr. Robert Kahn and his wife Monica Kahn were killed in a car crash Friday afternoon near San Angelo, Texas.
The couple were on their way to Padre Island, an annual trip they’ve made for about 25 years in the winter months, when their vehicle veered off U.S. 87, hit a guardrail, rolled and came to rest on its roof. Authorities pronounced the couple dead at the scene. The cause remains under investigation, according to local news reports in Tom Green County, Texas.
“My wife and I knew Bob and Monica well, and the news is so tragic, so sad,” Greeley Mayor John Gates told the Greeley Tribune on Saturday. “I had a great conversation with the Kahns at the Menorah Lighting this past December. Bob is, without question, one of the most interesting people you could talk to with his many years as a radiologist and their surviving the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. There wasn’t just anyone I could think of who had more interesting stories.”
Bob Kahn was 91, and Monica was 84.
The Kahns were married Feb. 15, 1959, in Denver and moved to Greeley five years later where they raised their daughters. Monica Kahn was a northeast Colorado regional director for the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Good program, while Bob Kahn was a radiologist for more than 35 years — including providing some of the first radiation oncology in Greeley and later offering care to underserved areas in Wyoming, North Dakota and eastern Colorado, according to his daughter Emily Kemme, a freelance writer and consistent contributor to the Greeley Tribune, A&E Spotlight and MyWindsor magazines.
The couple is survived by their daughters, Emily Kemme and her husband, Dr. Doug Kemme, of Greeley, Elizabeth Kahn-Lanning and her husband, Greg Lanning, of Manitou Springs, and Michelle Sauder and her significant other, Steve Sauder, of Greeley, and grandchildren, Dr. Jordan Kemme and his wife, Mia, of Atlanta, Georgia, Madeleine Kemme of Greeley, Alison Lanning of Fort Collins, Branda Hebert of Colorado Springs, Cassie Black of Guntersville, Alabama and Lacey McCulloch of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Great grandson, Leo Yune Kemme, was born on Jan. 27 in Atlanta.
The couple were active in a variety of organizations and events, including the annual Go West Film Fest, Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, High Plains Chautauqua, United Way of Weld County and the Weld Food Bank.
Monica was president of the Greeley Philharmonic Guild, a volunteer with the nonprofit Leanna’s Closet, which provides women in need with job-appropriate clothing, a volunteer in the surgery center at North Colorado Medical Center and, with Bob, a founding member of the Go West Film Fest.
Monica also assisted cancer patients in accessing needed care outside of Greeley before an oncology program was developed in the city. She and Bob were both active with the Weld County Democrats, and Monica was a member of multiple book clubs in Greeley and Estes Park.
Bob was a member of the board of directors of the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra and a longtime president and board member of Beth Israel Congregation in Greeley. Bob and Monica both were volunteer National Park rangers. Bob Kahn was also a member of Kiwanis, a former candidate for Colorado House District 50, as well as serving on numerous committees at North Colorado Medical Center.
Kahn was president of the Weld County Medical Society, and he was a volunteer with the Holocaust Memorial Observances of Greeley and Northern Colorado Committee.
“Monica and Bob were wonderful friends whom we loved dearly,” said Thelma Edgerton, a fellow Go West Film Fest board member. “They were passionate about being on the Go West Film Fest board and were always coming up with ways they could contribute. They were extremely generous people who had an unwavering sense of right and wrong.”
Edgerton said the Kahns’ love for each other was apparent.
“We feel extremely privileged to have known them and to have served on the Go West Film Fest board with them. They will be sorely missed,” she said.
Bob became a first-time author at age of 90 with the publication of his book, “Roentgen and Me,” in October 2021. German engineer and physicist Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen discovered X-rays.
Though he had never written for publication, he felt he had useful commentary and opinions to share about life, working, raising a family and the challenges and hardships that inevitably come with all of these.
“The thing that made me want to write the book is that so many people go through things regularly, and we have to fight and make our lives as good as possible,” Kahn said to the Greeley Tribune in an interview in December 2021. “We have failures, but we get over them. It applies to everybody.”
Greeley resident Don Perl, a former educator in Greeley-Evans School District 6 and at the University of Northern Colorado, met the Kahns nearly 40 years ago as members at Beth Israel Congregation, a synagogue in Greeley.
Perl said when his wife died in May 2016, the Kahns came to his home to visit, to check on him, with an offering of food.
“They were here, and they went out of their way to see me,” Perl said. “It meant a great deal to me. It gave me a sense of comfort.”
Perl’s late wife, Mimi, was not Jewish, and he said there was some confusion after her death on where she could be buried in relation to Don, who is Jewish, at Linn Grove Cemetery.
The cemetery has a section for residents who are Jewish and an area nearby for those of mixed faiths. Perl said Bob Kahn, as an influential voice and presence at the synagogue, had something to do with arranging for Mimi’s burial site
“He intervened and said, ‘No worries, we’re going to make this happen,’” Perl recalled.
Perl said he and Monica occasionally played online word games. He described her as a delight and commented on her positive energy and subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor that might only be noticed by those who knew her.
“I miss them already,” Perl said. “Just the mere fact that I’m not going to be able to see them again. They were such a part … even though I wouldn’t see them often, they were such an integral part of my life. It’s a heartbreak.”
Bob Kahn fled Nazi Germany with his family in the late 1930s when he was 7, and they relocated as refugees in New York. Kahn’s father, Herman, who fought for Germany in World War I, was taken from the family home by Nazis one night in November 1938. It was a night Nazis referred to as Kristallnacht, or night of the broken glass, for the shattered windows in streets during the violent, anti-Jewish demonstrations in Germany, Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Herman Kahn was sent to Buchenwald, a concentration camp in east-central Germany. Herman was released from the camp only after it was proven he was a decorated veteran. He eventually joined his family in Holland before the family emigrated to the U.S.
Monica Kahn, who was originally born in Italy, fled the Nazis with her family as well.
Both Bob and Monica were open and forthcoming with their experiences surviving the Holocaust, working to educate community members of all ages, races and backgrounds on the tragedy’s history.
The Kahns were regular attendees at the annual Menorah Lighting in downtown Greeley, most recently lighting the second and third lights on the menorah at the 2022 event.
“Their participation in the menorah lighting was so poignant and meaningful,” event organizer Alison Hamling said. “It brought the story of the Holocaust to our little gathering and gave it special meaning as Bob lit the first candle.”
Bob Kahn also offered some sage advice to the younger generation during the celebration, commenting: “We hope that you all remain positive that this country will survive and become the light for the entire world and that will continue.”
A celebration of life ceremony for Bob and Monica Kahn is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Beth Israel Synagogue, 1625 Reservoir Road in Greeley. Burial will immediately follow the ceremony at Linn Grove Cemetery, 1700 Cedar Ave., in Greeley. Services are open to the public.
“It’s a huge loss to our community. They were great people,” Gates said. “I am so sorry for the family, it’s terrible.”
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made to:
- The Weld Food Bank, www.weldfoodbank.org
- Anti-Defamation League, ADL, support.adl.org
- Go West Film Fest, www.gowestfilmfest.org
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