Longtime orchardist Jim Koempel died July 26 at his home in Dryden, Washington, following a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Jim Koempel (Courtesy Koempel family)
Jim Koempel (Courtesy Koempel family)

Koempel grew up on a family farm in Tieton, Washington, graduating from Highland High School in 1963. He graduated from Washington State University in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education. He and his wife, Sue, bought their first 10 acres of orchard in 1969.

His first job was as a vocational agricultural and woodshop teacher at Cashmere High School, and he continued teaching until the mid-1980s in three districts. He later turned to farming full time with his family, eventually welcoming his son Joshua back to the growing orchard business.

Koempel served on the board of directors of the Peshastin Irrigation District, Washington Growers Clearing House Association and the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. 

Koempel is survived by wife Sue, son Joshua, daughter Kiffin and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Jeff.

Memorial contributions can be made to the River Academy at bit.ly/RememberingJimK to support students through scholarships.

by Shannon Dininny