Mary Ellen Kimbal Coffin
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Mary Ellen Kimbal Coffin was born in Rapid City, South Dakota on November 4, 1921, to Mary Henry and Homer Merwin Johns, a Daughter of the American Revolution and a WWI Veteran, respectively. Soon thereafter, her family moved to Massillon OH, where her father served as city mayor after he returned from service with the US Engineering Corps in France during WWI. At 9 years of age, her family moved to Alliance OH where she attended schools through college.
Mary Ellen earned a B.S. degree in nursing from Mount Union College and completed her RN training at St Luke's Hospital in Cleveland OH, an innovative 5½ year degree program from which she was the first graduate. She was the third generation of her family to graduate from Mount Union College in Alliance OH. Her maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Henry, graduated from Mount Union College in the class of 1876 and her parents both graduated from Mount Union, as well as siblings of her mother and father. She was a member of the Delta Delta Delta Sorority.
In 1944, Mary Ellen and her family moved to Whittier CA. From 1944 to 1949, she worked as an RN with the Los Angeles County Health Dept. In 1949, she became the Supervisor of Health in the Whittier City School District, a position she held for 32 years. In 1957, she earned a Masters Degree in Public Health Education from UCLA. Mary Ellen was well known as a dedicated and accomplished professional. She was also very active in the First Christian Church of Whittier, Intercommunity Blind Center, YMCA, Soroptomist International, AAUW, Delta Kappa Sigma Society, and many other organizations. Mary Ellen and Ernest Ralph Kimbal married in 1966. Ernest was a teacher with the LA school district. In 1970, they adopted Thomas Henry Mitchell. They were a loving and happy family, known for their camping excursions and family dinners. Following the untimely death of her husband in 1976, Mary Ellen continued living and working in Whittier and retired in 1982.
In 1991, Mary Ellen married Tom Coffin and moved to beautiful Quaker Gardens in Stanton CA. She deeply cherished developing life-long friendships here and delighted in being close to her son's family in nearby Cypress. Her passions and interests included gatherings with family and friends, service to her community, playing bridge, traveling in the US and abroad, sailing, and family photography.
Mary Ellen lived her life with belief in the power of an educated, engaged citizen to make a difference through active involvement in civic activities. Over her long life, career, and final years at Quaker Gardens, she served in leadership and officer capacities for multiple professional, community, and philanthropic organizations, including President of the California School Health Association. She received numerous awards for her service. Reflecting on this time, Mary Ellen wrote: "For many years, service to my profession and community has been one of my great joys and privileges. It has provided me with the opportunity to know community leaders personally and to be acquainted with people in various occupations and professions. These contacts offer excellent occasions for good school - community public relations."
Mary Ellen was an inspirational matriarch of her family and an energetic catalyst for family gatherings. Mary Ellen felt that her greatest accomplishments in life were her family, friendships and community service. The family would like Mary Ellen to be remembered most as a loving wife, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, friend, and community advocate. May the light of her spirit live on, through each one of us.
Mary Ellen passed away June 6, 2013. Mary Ellen is preceded in death by husbands Ernest Kimbal and Tom Coffin, sister Carolyn Ernst, and son Thomas Mitchell. Her surviving family includes her son's wife, Ruthe, and granddaughters Rachael and Danae Mitchell of Cypress CA; her niece's family, Christine and Robert Miller of Tiburon CA; her nephew's family, Douglas and Teresa Ernst of San Antonio TX; grand nieces Whitney Carolyn Miller and Abby Miller Tollefson; and second cousin families of Johns, Henry, Buck, Pitsch, Kinsey, Moeller, Olmsted, Hill, and Barton.
Memorial services and a celebration of Mary Ellen's life will be held at the Chapel at Quaker Gardens (12151 Dale Ave Stanton, CA 90680), 4:00 pm, Saturday, June 29. She will be interned at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier CA. The family suggests remembrances be made to Nature Conservancy, PBS of Southern California, or Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Published in Whittier Daily News on June 21, 2013