Donna L. Coen
COLUMBIA — Donna Coen was an unforgettable resident of Columbia Manor Care Center.
Her quirky T-shirts became an attraction.
“I smile because you’ve driven me crazy.”
“I used to have a handle on reality, but it broke off.”
“Out of my mind, back in five minutes.”
“I didn’t say it was your fault. I said I was going to blame you.”
They were a reflection of her personality.
“She was one of the people, you always knew where you stood with her,” said her son, Jeff Chandler. “She liked you, she liked you, just as generous as she could be. She didn’t like you, she wouldn’t waste her time blowing her nose on you.”
Mrs. Coen died Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, at Columbia Manor. She was 69.
Mrs. Coen was born June 19, 1941, in Harrisburg to Charles O. Cook and Gertie G. Forbis. Shortly after she was born, her parents moved the family to Hallsville, where she spent the majority of her life. Mrs. Coen was the youngest of 12 children.
In the 1950s, Mrs. Coen played for the Hallsville High School women’s basketball team.
“She was a real big celebrity in her day as being a basketball player,” Chandler said.
Mrs. Coen was offered a scholarship to play basketball in Nashville, but her parents said she was too young to leave. Mrs. Coen was 16 when she graduated from high school and was the only child left at home.
Soon after she graduated, she married Richard Chandler. They were together for about 20 years until their divorce. She worked for a few years in the MU payroll department around 1970.
Mrs. Coen's son said she always wondered how her life would have been different if she had been allowed to leave home.
After her playing days were over, Mrs. Coen enjoyed watching the Missouri football and basketball teams.
“She’d be sitting there watching the basketball team or football team and yelling like they could hear her,” said her daughter-in-law Tammie Chandler. “She would get righteous with them.”
She was honored by Hallsville High School for her contributions to the basketball team at her graduating class' 50th reunion.
She moved with her then-teenage son to Nashville and lived there for 3 to 5 years doing record promotions. Things were tough — they were living in public housing and their only income was Mrs. Coen’s monthly $600 Social Security check.
While living in Nashville, Jeff Chandler said they leaned on each other for support — “two peas in a pod, for sure."
“We just had a warped sense of humor,” he said. “We could laugh at just about anything. No matter how bad it got we could always find something in there to pull through.”
Mrs. Coen took that positive attitude to Columbia Manor even as she dealt with medical problems.
“She was a special lady,” said Tammie Chandler. “I didn’t realize how many people she had touched. The nurses would come up when they knew that she was getting close to the end. Every one of them would come in, check on her, leave crying.”
Mrs. Coen was a member of Grace Bible Church. Head Pastor Michael Burt said she attended when she could.
“She’s in a better place now and we’ll see her again. I’m sure of that," said her niece Tami Esnor.
“The Lord was huge in her life," Esnor said. “She very much believed in God and Jesus, and that’s where she drew a lot of her strength.”
Mrs. Coen was able to use some of that strength to be with her tightly-knit family one more time.
“She (told) the nursing staff that she was going to hold out for Thanksgiving,” Tammie Chandler said.
On Friday night, the Coen family brought the celebration to her. On Saturday, Mrs. Coen’s health began declining.
"She kept her promise," Tammie Chandler said.
Mrs. Coen is survived by her son, Jeff Chandler and wife, Tammie, of Fulton; a brother, Russell Cook of Hallsville; a sister, Shirley Durk and husband, Leslie Jr., of Hallsville; a grandchild, Deondra Staab; and many nieces and nephews.
Her husband, five brothers and four sisters died earlier.
Visitation will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Nilson Funeral Home, 5611 E. Saint Charles Road. A graveside service will follow in Red Rock Cemetery in Harrisburg.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 11454, Alexandria, VA, 22312.
Tributes can be posted online at nilsonfuneralhome.com.