Quad Cities, IL/IA

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Bittersweet Holiday Memories


The phone call no mother wants to receive… Doris Coffey’s 21- year-old son was scheduled to leave for induction into military the next day. He asked to borrow her van to visit his girlfriend in Davenport for one last goodbye before shipping off. Two hours later when leaving her place, Dan returned to the van only to find a dead battery. Spying a service station across the street, Dan walked halfway across the road waiting for an ongoing vehicle to pass. The driver was driving erratically and headed right for him. In an instant Daniel Patrick Coffey, a vibrant, young, soon to be soldier was fatally struck by an intoxicated driver.

Doris and her husband Art had lived a fairy tale life, meeting on January 2, 1958, at a USO dance. They married 8 days later on January 10. Doris was just 18 and her handsome new soldier husband was 19. Soon they would be stationed in Germany where Art was in the Army Special Forces and Military Police. Two daughters were born at the military base and when they returned home, their son, Daniel, was born. The Army had treated the young family well. Growing up, Danny was eager to follow in this father’s footsteps.

With the ring of a telephone the fairy tale ended, Doris and Art’s shared dream for their son vanished. A life was cut way too short.

The next morning brought numerous phone calls outbound from the Coffey household. The first call was to their pastor at Coal Valley’s First Presbyterian Church and the second to Coal Valley’s funeral home, Trimble. Doris remembered Eric Trimble coming to the house. “Eric helped me get through those next few days, and he and his mother, Dorothy, checked in with me throughout the next year. I knew he was sincere when he said, ‘call us anytime you need some help.’ And, I did,” said Doris.

Fast-forward 25 years, Doris and Art Coffey, blessed with 9 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren, and in retirement, were faced with another ominous crisis. Art’s leukemia had returned for the third time. Doris recounted, “He put his arms around me and said, ‘Honey, you know how much I love you, but I don’t know how much longer I can take the pain.’ Two days later his heart just gave out and Art collapsed in the house. I thought to myself, God answered his prayer. He was not going to suffer much more. God gave the family just enough time for everyone to say their goodbyes and then Art slipped away,” recalled Doris.

She continued, “I relied on my faith, my family, my church and my trusted relationship with the Trimble family. Praise God they are always there for me.” Art passed away during the Fourth of July holiday weekend on July 6, 2013. Patriotic and a proud veteran, Trimble Funeral Home in Coal Valley arranged for full military honors.

Art Coffey was big on holidays, especially Christmas, as he was an ordained minister in addition to managing his footwear business. “Art was the one to decorate the house, be sure everyone had presents, gather the family together and share Biblical Christmas stories. I knew I would have a difficult time each Christmas without him,” lamented Doris. “But when I learned about Trimble’s Season of Light program, I knew I wanted to go. A group of us traveled in a mini-coach from the Moline Funeral Home to Augustana’s Deere Planetarium for a private Christmas star gazing program. We learned stories of Christmas symbolism as we looked to the heavens. It was so comforting. I could picture my son and husband together in that heavenly, celestial setting. Afterwards, the coach picked us up and drove us to Trimble Funeral Home for refreshments and some sharing time with Pastor Bob Hanson. It really helped me to speak up and talk about my feelings after my husband died. I believe we all benefited as others opened up and told their stories,” recalled Doris.

Last year Doris chose to not stay at their Coal Valley family home for Christmas, but instead traveled to visit family in Florida. “Going to the sunshine state may be my new holiday tradition. But I do want to attend Trimble’s Season of Light program again this year before I fly south. You see, I have a new great-grandchild living in Florida whom I have never seen and my first great-great-grandchild is due in March. God has blessed us richly with new life,” beamed Doris.

Trimble Funeral Home & Crematory will offer their Season of Light and Sharing program on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 14. Anyone interested in participating can call 309-764-1144, or stop by the new building at Trimble Pointe, 701 12th Street, Moline, to RSVP.

Photo credit: fotohunter/iStock
Photos courtesy of Trimble Funeral Home