Specialist 4, United States Army
Tuesday, January 6, 2004
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Kenneth Poch, 62, a retired audio-visual technician who spent the past 15 years voluntarily documenting Jewish grave sites at Arlington National Cemetery, died December 27, 2003, at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg. He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
Mr. Poch had made his living working for the Newspaper Association of America, first in New York and then in Reston, since the mid-1980s. About that time, on a Saturday afternoon, he took a tour of Arlington National Cemetery.
After he noticed that few graves were marked with the Star of David, he went to the administrative building to ask how many Jewish veterans were buried at Arlington. He was told that there were no computerized records to provide an answer to his question, his brother-in-law, Bob Targan said.
Mr. Poch then decided to personally undertake a project to catalogue all Jewish graves at Arlington. He spent hundreds of hours crisscrossing the cemetery, snapping pictures of grave sites and collecting information for his project.
He began by researching the personal histories of individuals with Jewish-sounding names. If a soldier received a military decoration for valor, the Office of the Army Historian usually had a file on the individual containing biographical information. Sometimes he wrote to surviving family members inquiring about Jewish ancestry.
In the end, he collected the names of about 2,700 Jewish military service members interred at Arlington, in addition to several hundred spouses and other family members buried there.
His files filled 31 boxes, which he had hoped to publish someday, his sister, Sheila Targan, said.
"His mission was to tell the stories of those buried in Arlington," Targan said. "Each person had a story of how they lived and died. He always said, 'You're dead only if you're forgotten.' "
Until his health began to fail in 2003, Mr. Poch, who retired on disability a year earlier, was a fixture at Arlington. He rarely traveled without his camera, photographing visitors to the grounds, ceremonial services and popular tourist stops, including the Memorial Amphitheater.
One of his better-known photos, which has been featured on patriotic Web sites, shows three children carrying roses through the headstones at Arlington.
Among his favorite subjects to document was the 3rd Infantry "Old Guard" Regiment at Fort Myer, whose members participate in burial services at Arlington.
Mr. Poch, a native of Brooklyn, New York, and Army veteran, was made an honorary member of the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, and an honorary sergeant in the Old Guard.
His marriage to Alice Poch ended in divorce.
Survivors include two sons, Adam and Seth Poch,
both of New Jersey; and a sister, Sheila Targan of Montgomery Village.
On Saturday, December 27, 2003 of Reston, Virginia. Devoted father of Seth and Adam Poch; loving brother of Sheila (Dr. Bob) Targan. Memorial services will be held on Friday, January 2, 12:30 p.m. at DANZANSKY-GOLDBERG MEMORIAL CHAPELS, INC., 1170 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland (301) 340-1400.
Interment Arlington National Cemetery on Monday,
January 5, at 9 a.m. Family will be observing shiva Friday through Thursday
at the residence of Sheila Targan. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy
in his memory may be made to the Kenneth Poch Fund of the ALS Association
of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Chapter, 615 S. Frederick Ave., Suite 308,
Gaithersburg, MD 20877.