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NFL photographer Carl Koster loved Kansas, Cheney and local politics

Cheney Mayor Carl Koster waves to a passerby at First and Main in downtown Cheney in 1999.
Cheney Mayor Carl Koster waves to a passerby at First and Main in downtown Cheney in 1999. The Wichita Eagle

Carl Koster — retired NFL photographer, former mayor of Cheney, friend and promoter of rural Kansas — was found dead Thursday at his home in Cheney.

Mr. Koster was a Republican and a current Cheney City Council member.

"Carl Koster was an active citizen par excellence," wrote John Todd, vice president of the Wichita Pachyderm Club, in an email Friday to The Eagle. "He was a loyal and active member. He was active in Americans for Prosperity-Kansas and one of his favorite groups was the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP). " Carl was a 'world-class' photographer. He was everywhere. I would see him at places like the Kansas State Fair. Today is a sad day. We will sorely miss our friend Carl Koster. "

Mr. Koster was 66. Mr. Koster's viewing will be Tuesday from 5-9 p.m. at Wulf-Ast in Garden Plain. His service will be Wednesday at 1030 a.m. at St Paul's Lutheran Church in Cheney. Graveside service in Cheney will be followed by lunch at the church.

He was born July 13, 1951. He and his parents farmed southeast of Cheney. His grandfather had worked for the Jewett Stock Farm, a 5,000-acre ranch near Cheney, and was able to acquire land east of the ranch shortly after the turn of the 20th Century. Mr. Koster's father was a musician who played in local bands during the Great Depression years and war years. Growing up during the 1950s, Mr. Koster was a 4-H'er and developed his photography skills as a project.

It was at the Kansas State Fair one year that a photography judge took Mr. Koster under his wing and encouraged him to pursue photography, said his friend, Roger Ringer. The judge even loaned Mr. Koster an expensive camera.

Mr. Koster's path to NFL Films was paved with both serendipity and skill. He won the state 4-H photo project in 1969, the year he graduated from Cheney High School. While working as a stringer at Kansas State University in Manhattan for KTVH-TV, Mr. Koster met a cameraman for National Collegiate Athletic Association films and got an offer in 1972 to go to work for the NCAA.

At the same time, he received an offer from NFL Films to submit a sample of his work. Koster, Kansas humble, turned down the offer. Nevertheless, the general manager of NFL Films was so impressed, he leased personal equipment to the budding photographer and hired him after seeing the results, according to a November 1999 Wichita Eagle feature on Mr. Koster.

In the meantime, Mr. Koster became politically active in his hometown.

The city of Cheney posted his accomplishments on its Facebook page Friday.

" It is with great sadness to announce the passing of Cheney Council member Carl Koster..

the post read. "Carl has served on the City Council since 2009 and previously held the position as Mayor from 1991-2003. He served on many Regional and County boards for the City of Cheney and we will forever be grateful for his leadership and representation."

As photographer for NFL Films, Mr. Koster filmed Kansas City Chiefs home games and was sent where needed when the team was on the road — all the while keeping the family farm going and serving in several positions on boards and committees.

Friend and former Sedgwick County Sheriff Mike Hill wrote to The Eagle about his memories of Mr. Koster:

"Carl was TRULY one of the 'Good Guys. I got acquainted with Carl in the mid early ‘80’s," Hill wrote in an email. "I worked on many projects and committees with Carl during my time as sheriff. He always had a calming way when involved in situations when Mayor of Cheney. He loved NFL Films.

"In his prime he covered a game every weekend. I don’t believe there was a NFL stadium that Carl didn’t film a game in," Hill wrote. " I’ve got a picture of Carl and I in the end zone, Super Bowl XXIV, January 28, 1990, New Orleans. It’s a sad day for not only the Koster Family, Cheney KS but for the Metro-Plex area. Carl will be missed."

The city of Cheney also posted about Mr. Koster:

"Carl was a wonderful mentor and friend to many and always kept the best interest of the community in mind. Community pride poured out of Carl as he was always excited to attend community events and supported all municipal departments. We are lucky to have had the ideas and ingenuity that Carl brought forth. His effort and guidance will continue to leave a lasting impression on the City of Cheney."

Through the years, Mr. Koster continued to support 4-H by judging photography at the Sedgwick County Fair in Cheney and at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. He was an avid Kansas history buff and attended countless Kansas history classes and events throughout the state.

Ringer said Koster is survived by friends, cousins and fans of his works.

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