KENOSHA - Jeff Kocar, former President of the Amtrak Historical Society and respected community volunteer in Kenosha, WI, passed away peacefully at the age of 67 on June 15, 2022 following a brief illness.
Jeff was born in Chicago, IL on April 27, 1955, to Judy and Jerry Kocar. He studied business at Southern Illinois University and earned a degree in Mortuary Science from the College of Mortuary Science in San Francisco, CA.
Jeff took his business acumen and communication skills and transitioned into a career in hospitality management; joining the Hyatt Hotel Corporation and then Chicago's famed Gaslight Club. In the early 1980s, he moved into office roles, including working in risk management for Urban Investment and Development Co.
From early childhood, Jeff possessed a deep passion for train travel, and in his early 30s, he pursued a long-held dream of working for Amtrak. He was a natural fit and would gradually rise through the ranks; from Attendant, to Dining Car Steward, to Conductor, to Sr. Officer of Employee Development. While working in management at headquarters in Delaware, he was responsible for writing training programs for Conductors. His career with Amtrak would cross many miles and span 28 rewarding years.
Jeff became President of the Amtrak Historical Society in 1992, writing the monthly newsletter and telling stories of the rail corporation that started in 1971 when it was established by the Congressional Rail Passenger Service Act, which consolidated multiple passenger railroads into one. Jeff collected rail memorabilia and placed his collection and that of the Amtrak Historical Society into the care of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, in La Plata, Missouri.
In 2018, he retired to Kenosha, WI and devoted himself to arts and culture. He worked tirelessly to enhance the visitor experience at the Kenosha History Center and published the Southport newsletter. A recent life celebration was testament to Jeff's impact on the community as friends shared ways he brought them joy; from playing keyboard at parties, to assembling music and video for veterans events, to teaching technology to seniors. As one woman so eloquently shared, "Jeff inspired all of us -- and he was such a class act."
Jeff Kocar will forever be remembered for his kindness, generosity, humility, and his commitment to preserving Amtrak history.
He is survived by his mother Judy; and sister Jill. His feline Brooke was lovingly adopted by a close neighbor.
Published by Kenosha News on Aug. 28, 2022.