Remembering Dr. Fred Kiechel
Frederic Kiechel III, MD led a life of integrity, curiosity, kindness, dedication, and great fun. A proud Nebraskan, Fred traveled the world and sampled its delights, but never lost his humility and sense of wonder.
Born in Tecumseh, Nebraska, to Frederic Casey Kiechel and Katherine Fitzsimmons, Fred’s close-knit family stressed the importance of compassion, community, hard work, and adventure. Fred enjoyed a good challenge; his first proud accomplishment came at age 12 when he became the youngest Eagle Scout in American history. At Auburn High School he was a 4-sport athlete (football, basketball, track, and golf), president of the Class of 1960, valedictorian, and frequenter of the stage as a pianist, singer, and the lead in the school play. Fred valued how these activities deepened his relationships with his teammates, classmates, and younger brother, Stephen.
Fred’s parents traveled extensively in their youth and encouraged Fred to do the same. His first foray out of the Midwest was to Williams College in Massachusetts where he studied biology and played rugby. During his senior year, Fred met Vivian Lee Wilson and became living proof that blind dates are a good idea and that “love at first sight” exists. Fred would later tell his children, Katherine “Lee” Koles and Frederic IV “Buck” Kiechel, “I knew from the moment I first laid eyes on your mother that she was the woman I wanted to marry.” His instinct proved correct: Fred graduated from Williams in 1964 and married Vivian on August 5, 1967. They would be together for 56 years.
Fred claimed that he “always knew” he wanted to be a doctor. In keeping with this childhood dream of helping and healing others, Fred earned his MD from the University of Virginia, attended Columbia Presbyterian in New York City for his internship and residency, and cared for the children of U.S. airmen as a Major and pediatrician at the Dover, Delaware Air Force Base.
With the Vietnam War over, honorably discharged, Fred was awarded a fellowship in Allergy and Clinical Immunology at National Jewish Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Here he was part of the research team that identified the relationship between asthma, allergy, and immunology. This led to a holistic approach to treatment; though it sounds obvious today, this connection was then unprecedented.
One of Fred’s proudest accomplishments was returning to Nebraska in 1975 to open Allergy, Asthma, Immunology, and Associates in Lincoln with Dr. Melvin Hoffman. As the only Board-Certified allergists between Denver and Omaha, Fred and Mel made it their mission to help children and adults suffering from asthma and allergies regain control of their lungs - and their lives. The practice grew to include a network of satellite offices across Nebraska and Iowa so patients in rural areas could receive treatment.
Fred valued his patients and enjoyed connecting with them on a personal level. He asked about their interests, achievements, and families. He was known for his kindness and ability to calm others during stressful situations. Fred would go on to save many lives, not just of patients, but of friends, family members, and strangers. Ask anyone close to Fred - they will have an “If it wasn’t for Fred” story to share.
Fred’s passion for medicine was eclipsed only by his love of his family. He took pride in their accomplishments, championing Vivian when she broke into the art business, cheering Buck and Lee on in their athletic pursuits, and supporting their dreams. Fred helped with homework and never missed a concert, recital, play, or sporting event. He broke up sibling fights and had long, heartfelt conversations with moody teenagers. He got angry but never held a grudge. Fred dispensed wise, respected advice, but was also a good listener. He penned numerous cards and letters. He adored his grandchildren and eagerly embraced their interests. Fred never hesitated to say, “I love you.”
Fred followed his parents’ lead and explored the world. Most importantly to him, he did this with close friends and family. Fred hiked the Ugandan rain forest in search of mountain gorillas, walked along the Great Wall of China, sampled Indian street food in the shadow of the Taj Mahal, crossed Checkpoint Charlie to investigate East Berlin, went scuba diving on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and tread the beaches of Normandy.
For all these adventures and more, Fred demonstrated the simple fact that you can go home again; you can take your acquired talents and use them to better the place you love most. Fred understood that life is best when surrounded by friends and family; and that with love and support, one can accomplish great things.
Fred held steadfast to his positivity even after learning of his Alzheimer’s and acute myelodysplastic syndrome diagnoses. Ever the doctor, he took a practical overview:
“We’ve had a really good time,” he said.
Fred’s beautiful life ended peacefully with Vivian, Lee, and Buck by his side.
Fred is also survived by his son- and daughter-in-law, Ford Koles and Lisa Kiechel; grandchildren Luke, Isabel and Graham Kiechel, and Ford and Vivian Koles; brothers Stephen Kiechel (Julia) and John Kiechel (Laurel); sister Meg Paolacci (John); brother- and sister-in-law Buck and Pam Wilson; nieces Lee-Ann Harris (Mitch), Amy Jensen (Tim), Emily Leibowitz (Kevin), Duffy Mudry (Eric), Katherine Kiechel and Katie Paolacci (Sam); nephew, Perry Wilson (Niamey); cousins and extended family.
Fred’s Celebration of Life will take place at 10:30 AM on Wednesday, December 20th at First-Plymouth Church, 2000 D Street, Lincoln, NE. Memorials in lieu of flowers can be sent to the Nebraska Asthma Coalition (www.nebraskaasthmacoalition.org) or First-Plymouth Church. The Celebration of Life will be Live Streamed by First Plymouth at the following https://vimeo.com/event/3944336
The Nebraska Asthma Coalition strives to improve health outcomes and quality of life for individuals affected by asthma in our state. We work to accomplish our mission through our core values of collaboration, inclusivity, data-driven decision making and commitment to addressing health disparities.