MARQUETTE, MI. - Lauriann "Lauri" Esther Gant Coffey, age 79, of Marquette, entered eternal life Thursday, August 30, 2012, at Marquette General Hospital from complications of Alzheimer's.
Born November 27, 1932 in Marquette, the only child of Luther O. and Gladys E. (Hoff) Gant, Lauri was raised in Marquette and was a 1950 graduate of J.D. Pierce. From her earliest years, Lauri desired to go into teaching, inspired by the teaching careers of her parents. She enrolled at Northern Michigan College of Education (now NMU), receiving her Bachelors Degree in Education in 1954 and her Masters Degree in Education in 1955 from the University of Michigan. Her first teaching assignment was in Allen Park, where she taught a total of 105 kindergarten students over the course of a day, two hours at a time. While residing in Allen Park, she met her future husband, Charles E. Coffey, and the couple was married at the First Presbyterian Church in Marquette on July 11, 1957. The couple made their first home in Allen Park for a year before moving to Ypsilanti where Lauri taught at the Eastern Michigan University lab school while Chuck finished his bachelors degree. A move was made to the Upper Peninsula with Stephenson becoming their new home. During this time, Lauri taught at the Wallace Elementary School and Chuck at the Stephenson High School, and they welcomed their first son, Stephen. A move was then made to Ann Arbor so that Chuck could complete requirements for his masters degree and Lauri became a stay at home mom. Returning to Stephenson, Lauri resumed her role as wife and mom, welcoming their second son, David, in 1962. Another relocation to Flint and then Syracuse, New York where Lauri resumed her teaching career with a first grade class at Liverpool Elementary School, just outside Syracuse. The family then moved to Olean, New York, residing there three years, where Lauri again became a stay at home mom and also caregiver to her mother, Gladys, who came to live with the family. In 1975, the Coffey family moved to Marquette and two years later Lauri began a 20 year teaching career at the Vandenboom Elementary School, retiring in 1997. In 1993, during her tenure at Vandenboom, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, one of 52 recipients nationwide, and traveled to the White House to receive her honor. During her career, as well as in retirement, Lauri continued to serve as a professional developer for Everyday Mathematics, traveling around the Upper Peninsula, instructing teachers in the curriculum and its methodology. She was the consummate teacher, thoroughly enjoying her career, always willing to try new innovations while attempting to make the experience fun and educational for her students. She was a "natural" at her craft and her cheerful, people-person personality, thoughtfulness, and caring nature, endeared her to many. Lauri was also a gifted musician, learning to play the violin and piano as a youngster. She served as organist-pianist at the Community Presbyterian Church in Big Bay, Stephenson Methodist Church, Grand Blanc Methodist Church in Flint, and East Genesee Presbyterian Church in Syracuse, NY. A woman of faith, Lauri served her various church families generously, from membership on the Session in Allen Park and in Marquette, to teaching Sunday School and being superintendent. Locally, she was a member of the First Presbyterian Church where she was actively involved in the Rebecca Circle, serving as a deacon and elder, her mother being the first woman elder in Marquette. She loved to sing and was a member of the choir. Presbytery Point Camp, the church camp located on Lake Michigamme, was another of Lauri's passions. A camper from the early days of the camp, she later served as a counselor and on the camp board. It was a special place to both she and her family. In her leisure, Lauri was a skilled knitter, having learned the art from her grandmother. During World War II, the Gant family, including her father, Luther, all knitted for the war effort, and this early training became a wonderful pastime in later years, as did her music. A person of wide ranging interests, Lauri also followed the sports scene, especially those involving Northern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. Travel was another passion that both she and Chuck shared. As young parents, they saw to it that their children were taken on weekend trips to various places of fun, historic interest, and adventure. Later, and even well into their 70's, Lauri and Chuck traveled to many states, visited most of the National Parks and Monuments, and camped either in a tent or with their fifth-wheel. Travels by train were also taken to California and Washington State. Lauri's professional affiliations included membership in the American Association of University Women, the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, both of which she served as a conference presenter throughout the years, a life member of the Michigan Education Association, local educational associations, life member of the NMU Alumni Association and the University of Michigan Alumni Association, and chairman of the Marquette City election committee for many years. Additionally, she and Chuck served on the committee to secure funding for the Presque Isle Pavilion and both were instrumental in the Marquette Senior High School Booster Club, initiating the pancake breakfast, spaghetti dinners, and Reunion Basketball Tournament.
Lauri is survived by her husband of 55 years, Charles; sons, Stephen Coffey of Moore, OK and David (Kathy) Coffey of Spring Lake; her grandchildren, Sarah, Timothy, and Hannah Coffey, Dr. Hilary (Dr. Joshua) Schmid Veazey, John and Andrew Schmid.
A memorial service, honoring the life of Lauriann Coffey, will be held at the First Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, September 4, at 2:00 pm with Rev. Nicholas Cammarata, pastor, officiating. The family will greet friends at a reception in the church parlors following the service.
Memorials may be directed to the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Michigan Chapter, Upper Peninsula Region, 309 South Front, Suite 233, Marquette, MI 49855 or to Presbytery Point Camp, P.O Box 795, Marquette, MI 49855.
The Swanson-Lundquist Funeral Home is serving the family, where condolences may be expressed online at www.swansonlundquistfuneralhome.com.