Obituary: Phillip Koldewyn

Longtime Claremont McKenna professor

Husband, father, grandfather, and professor for 35 years at Claremont McKenna College, Phillip Young Koldewyn died March 1 at his home in Centennial, Colorado. He was 89 years old.

Phillip was born in Loma Linda, California on March 2, 1931 to William and Rebecca Koldewyn, the first of four children.

After graduating from high school in Ogden, Utah in 1949, he attended the University of Utah for one year. He then served a mission for three years for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Mexico and Texas, and became fluent in Spanish.

He attended and graduated from San Bernardino Valley College in 1954 with an associate’s degree in chemistry. From 1954 to 1956 he served in the US Army in Korea during the Korean War. He was the radio and communications specialist for his unit, and he was in charge of training new recruits on using two-way radios.

After being discharged in 1956, he attended Brigham Young University, graduating in 1958. He then attended UC Berkeley, receiving first a master’s degree in Spanish in 1960, followed in 1964 by his doctorate degree in romance languages.

During his time at Berkeley, he met Wilma Hamann at a church function. They were married in January 1965.

The young couple moved to Claremont in 1965, where Mr. Koldewyn began as an associate professor of Spanish at Claremont McKenna College.

During his 35-year career at the college, he alone constituted the Latin American studies department, teaching Spanish, Latin American history, and literature. He also published numerous professional articles on various subjects, including “Alfonso Reyes, Hispanic Nonprofit Organizations in California,” and “Mexican Voluntary Organizations.”

He lived with his family in Mexico while on sabbatical from 1970 to 1971, where his son Shaun was born. Another highlight in Mexico was when he was invited to speak on two unpublished books authored by Alfonso Reyes. The president of Mexico was in attendance as well as the family of Mr. Reyes. Mr. Koldewyn enjoyed the academic world and always had an open door for his students, consulting with them and providing advice and encouragement.

He served many years in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Soon after moving to Claremont, he was invited to serve as the leader, or president, of the student branch associated with the Claremont Colleges. He was well liked and filled the role of professional and spiritual mentor to many students and members of the congregation, his family shared.

During his nearly 50 years in Claremont, he and Ms. Koldewyn visited and blessed the lives of many, many people, including struggling families, victims of addiction, aging and lonely individuals, people struggling with illness and pregnant teens, his family shared. Some of those individuals were invited into the Koldewyn’s home for extended periods.

After retirement they took their service full time and served an 18 month mission for the church in Northern California. There they again supported struggling congregations and even took a homeless family into their home until they were able to get on their feet.

“He was an inspiration and leader to his sons,” the family said. “They, as well as others, learned from his example to work hard, be kind to others, and to support those around them.”

Mr. Koldewyn loved music and often began Sunday mornings in the home by playing classical music. He also loved the outdoors and took his family camping, introducing them to national parks such as Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

He was also an accomplished handyman. He converted his garage into a study/den, built a carport, bookshelves, and patio cover, and did brick work around his home.

He often attended his sons’ activities and wrestled with his boys at home. He was a supportive and loving husband, seeing that his family visited and got to know Ms. Koldewyn’s family in Germany, they said, and was sensitive to the fact that she was living far away from many of her loved ones.

Mr. Koldewyn is survived by his wife, Wilma Gertrud Hamann; brothers Alan and Richard Koldewyn; children, Deren Koldewyn and his wife, Tara Koldewyn, and granddaughter, Claire, of Centennial, Colorado; Soren Koldewyn and his wife, Leah Koldewyn and grandchildren, Andie, Sophie and Sam of Morgan Hill, California; and Kelley Koldewyn, wife of Mr. Koldewyn’s late son, Shaun Koldewyn, andgrandchildren Kira, Owen and Grant, of Buckingham, Virginia.

“His son, Shaun, having passed away due to cancer in 2002, and his sister Nora, who passed away from cancer in 2010, have certainly welcomed Phillip with loving arms in the next life,” his family shared.

Services will be held on Friday, March 13 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Centennial, Colorado. Burial will follow at Fort Logan Military Cemetery, Denver, Colorado.


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