Speller follows in his grandpa’s footsteps at district beeApr 29, 2021 12:07PM ● By Becky Ginos
The top three winners stand with their families after the bee. Andy Lee (23) took first, Julia Van Orman placed second and Peter Koecher was third. Courtesy photos
BOUNTIFUL—Rapacious – that’s the word Peter Koecher spelled to secure his spot in the finals of the Davis District spelling bee held last week at Clearfield High. Out of more than 30 spellers from across the county, Koecher placed third behind winner Andy Lee and Julia Van Orman who took second.
However, there’s more to the story than the competition. Koecher’s grandpa was Rolf Koecher, editor of the Davis Clipper for many years before passing away in 2011.
“Rolf was part of the overreaching publisher/newspaper to start a spelling bee in Davis County,” said Rolf’s wife, Deanne Koecher. “It was so important to him. He worked really hard to make it happen and Gail (Stahle, publisher) was supportive.”
The Clipper sponsored the bee for several years, even sending the winner to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national contest. Rolf was behind it all, gathering lists of spelling words, printing pictures of contestants and overseeing north and south bees and ultimately the final.
“Sometimes he borrowed our video camera so he could tape the bee in case someone questioned a word,” said Matthew Koecher, Peter’s dad and Rolf’s son.
Spelling comes naturally to Peter, who is an eighth grader at Davis Connect, the district’s online school. “He passed the bees in his classes in the past and has done well,” said Matthew. “When the bee came up at Davis Connect they gave us a list of words to spell so we studied those together. We did it remotely with two web cams, one he’d look through and the other one would show he wasn’t getting help from outside sources.”
Peter took first place in the school bee and went onto the district. “It was different preparing for that,” Matthew said. “There was no list to study we mostly relied on his native talents. We didn’t know what to expect. But then he just kept going round after round.”
Spelling seems to run in the family too. “When I was a kid I won the bee at the school level,” said Matthew. “Then when I went on I lost in the first round with the word ‘acquit.’ I didn’t put in the work. Peter got the word ‘acquittal’ and got it right. We were able to reclaim the family honor.”
The top three winners received a gift basket of prizes and scholarship money. “He got a $1,000 scholarship,” said Deanne. “That’s pretty impressive. It tickles me to death that there are so many ways kids can receive recognition. It’s not always in sports or cheer leading the school finds other strengths they have so they can shine.”
The Clipper continued to sponsor the bee for a few years after Rolf’s passing. Now it is run by the school district. But Peter’s win brought it full circle for the Koecher family, especially since the bee happened to fall on Rolf’s birthday.
“He would have been 72,” said Deanne. “There were certain things that he didn’t want to let go – the bee was one of them.”