The Turlock Skate Park now has a new name: the Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park.
No, Koch isn’t a former mayor, a major philanthropist, or the sort of local luminary most local parks are named after.
But Koch was a man worth remembering, according to his family, friends, and the nearly 1,000 people who signed a petition in support of renaming the Skate Park in his honor.
“This isn't just some kid off the street,” said Judith Suliman, Koch’s aunt. “Brandon is a remarkable person and he always has been.”
Koch was a skateboarder, through-and-through. Like most skateboarders, you could find Koch at the Turlock Skate Park, most any time of the day or night.
“To skateboarders, your local skate park is a home,” explained Zach Wagner, one of Koch’s best friends.
By all accounts, Koch was a supremely talented skateboarder, one sponsored by skateboarding companies.
Koch wasn’t just someone who loved skating, though: Koch loved helping others learn to skate. He took kids under his wing, taking time from his own skating to show others new tricks.
“Before I met him, I couldn't do anything,” said Turlocker Andrew Ellis. “I couldn't even stand on a board.”
Koch protected the members of the Turlock Skate Park family, too. He ran off bullies trying to steal skateboards from the younger kids. And as children grew older, Koch steered them away from drugs and alcohol.
“Everyone at that skate park knew who he was,” Ellis said. “Everybody at that skate park loved him.”
Sadly, Koch was taken too soon, dying at age 26 on April 12, after a year-long battle with an aggressive adrenocortical cancer.
Even up to the very end, the selfless Koch put his friends first. One friend, Rachel Kenny, told a story of how Koch was sad that he had to shave his head due to cancer treatments – not because of his own hair loss, but because he would be unable to donate his hair to Locks of Love.
Friend after friend took to the podium Tuesday night to convince the Turlock City Council to rename the Turlock Skate Park in honor of their friend Koch. The move would both honor Koch and his legacy, supporters said, inspiring others to carry on the ideals he was known for.
“As the generations to come skate at this park, may the name Brandon Koch remind them to pay it forward,” Suliman said.
In the end, it didn’t take much convincing. The Turlock City Council voted unanimously to approve the name change – including Turlock City Councilmember Bill DeHart, who said he made his first skateboard in 1961 from a two-by-four and a roller skate.
“I think we witnessed something this evening that kind of resonates with each one of us, and it makes me proud,” DeHart said.