MANSFIELD, Texas – Less than a year away from retirement, William E. Koehn died doing what he was called to do, running a Baptist hospital and making toys for the needy in Yemen, his son-in-law said Monday.
The 60-year-old hospital director, who had lived in the Arabian peninsula nation for nearly half his life, was one of three Americans gunned down Monday at Jibla Baptist Hospital in the Yemeni city of Jibla. The others were a doctor from Alabama who had been there nearly as long as Koehn, and a hospital purchasing agent from Wisconsin. A pharmacist from Texas was wounded.
The gunman entered the hospital hiding a semiautomatic rifle under his jacket to make it resemble a child, according to Yemeni officials. He opened fire in a room where Koehn was holding a meeting, said a statement from the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, based in Richmond, Va.
Koehn, 60, whose children live in Mansfield, had planned to retire next October, the mission board said.
Koehn and his wife, Marty, had been in Yemen since 1975, their son-in-law, Randal Pearce, said outside his home in Mansfield, about 15 miles from Fort Worth.
"There are always concerns, but he knew why he was there. He was there to help people, and he felt safe," Pearce said.
"We have found them to be gracious and kind," Pearce said of the Yemenis. "Otherwise, Bill and Marty would never have spent their lives serving there."
In addition to being the hospital administrator, Koehn made wooden cars for orphans in Jibla. His wife was not near the shooting and was not hurt.
Also killed was Dr. Martha C. Myers. "She loved the people very much. She felt like that was home," her father, Ira Myers, said in Montgomery, Ala.
Ira Myers, the retired director of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said Yemen had been his daughter's home for 24 years.
He said his daughter "had the opportunity to talk to the native women. That would not have been possible for a male doctor in that culture. She delivered lots of babies."
He said his daughter also helped UNICEF with immunization programs. "We are concerned for the people who have been getting their care from Martha and the others at the hospital. Now where do they go?" asked Myers, 78.
The third person killed was purchasing agent Kathleen A. Gariety, 53, of Wauwatosa, Wis., who had been in Yemen for about 10 years.
Members of her family said they tried to persuade her to stay in Wisconsin this summer, but she insisted on returning to Yemen.
"I didn't want her to go, but I think what really took her back was the children. She loved the children," said her brother, Jerome J. Gariety Jr. of Colgate, Wis.
About 40 people gathered for an afternoon prayer service at First Baptist Church of Eustace, southeast of Dallas, where hospital pharmacist Donald W. Caswell and his family attended services before moving to Yemen. He was recovering from surgery for a stomach wound.
"He fell in love with people in Jibla," said the Rev. Paul McKinney. "They are sweet people, and he loved the people he worked with there."
Caswell, 49, of Levelland, about 30 miles west of Lubbock, had been doing missionary work for a year and a half, said his father, D.C. Caswell, 71. He and his wife, Terri, have three children, ages 5, 12, and 27.
"I'd rather they'd not be doing that," D.C. Caswell said of the missionary work. "I do hope that he'd come on home now."