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Published: Thursday, 8/15/2002

E. Toledo parish leader was man of faith, service

Jim Coehrs, a retired glassworker who was a volunteer and leader in the East Toledo parish where he was a lifelong member, died Tuesday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township, from complications of lung cancer. He was 71.

Mr. Coehrs of East Toledo retired in 1988 from the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co., where he was a glassworker for 30 years. He worked part time in recent years for the Clark Snodgrass Co., which makes Pella windows.

He devoted much of his energy to family and St. Thomas Aquinas Church, where he was a eucharistic minister and altar server. He and his wife, Marilyn, had 10 children, each of whom went to Catholic school through 12th grade. Supporting their school and extracurricular activities led to further involvement in the parish.

“I remember when [two of] our boys were in scouting, he was elected chairman of the [Cub Scout] pack,” his wife said. “He had never gotten up in front of people. For their sake, he did it. He was involved with scouting for a while. One thing led to another.”

He was a member of the parish school's first board of education, taught physical education, and coached fifth and sixth-grade girls' basketball.

“He liked taking these girls, some of whom never bounced a basketball, and [seeing] them grow into the players they became,” his wife said. “We had six daughters, and he understood girls.”

In recent years, he and his wife were part of a lay movement called Christ Renews His Parish, in which men and women separately go on retreats and discuss their spirituality. The men in his group brought their guitars when they visited during his illness and sang songs from their retreats.

“These men were really supportive,” his wife said. “He always thought spirituality was something private at first. But when he saw other men express themselves this way, he saw men could do this too.”

His ministry was as a mime for the women's retreats.

“That was his calling,” his wife said. “It was surprising because Jim didn't like to be on the stage, but he felt this was a deeply spiritual thing.”

His daughter Julie McNamee said: “He had a very strong faith.”

While a new roof is installed, Mass at St. Thomas has not been celebrated in the church. But parishioners and friends have volunteered to clean the space so that Mr. Coehrs' funeral can be held there.

“Jim would be overwhelmed by that,” his wife said. “That was quite a tribute to him.”

Mr. Coehrs grew up on Navarre Avenue, attended St. Thomas Aquinas School, and was a graduate of the former Macomber Vocational High School. He was an Army veteran, stationed in Texas during the Korean War.

He was a fan of University of Notre Dame football. He devoted a room in his home to Notre Dame memorabilia.

Surviving are his wife, Marilyn, whom he married July 7, 1951; sons, Jim, Jr., Gary, David, and Thom Coehrs; daughters, Valerie Grosjean, Susan Hansen, Cheryl Calvis, Kathleen Ricker, Julie McNamee, and Diane Schober; sister, Jean Sanislo; 19 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

The body will be in the Hoeflinger Mortuary, Oregon, after 2 p.m. tomorrow, with a Scripture service in the mortuary at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

The family requests tributes to the St. Louis Helping Hands Program or the St. Thomas Aquinas athletic program.



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