Obituary of John Foster Coffin, III
John Foster Coffin, III
John Foster Coffin, III was born in Ithaca, New York, on November 29, 1926, to Foster Meldrum Coffin, an administrator at Cornell University, and Carolyn Slater Coffin. He passed away at his home in Tucson, Arizona on December 7, 2023.
John graduated from Deerfield Academy in 1944, and Cornell University in 1950 with a degree in Civil Engineering. There he had met Mary Louise Flanagan, and they were married in 1951. John began a teaching career at Shattuck School in Faribault, Minnesota, and then at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. From 1957 to 1963, in a hiatus from teaching, the family lived in the New Haven, Ct area where he worked as a civil engineer for Wilbur Smith Associates, and then for the City of New Haven. In 1963 he returned to teaching, his real vocation, accepting a post at Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut, which he held until his retirement in 1995. He and Mary Lou lived in a home on the school campus, and thrived on school life. At Canterbury he taught Math and Physics, coached hockey and soccer, and shared a passion for geology and astronomy, and the outdoors. Famously a man of few words, he was beloved by generations of student scholars and athletes, and fellow faculty members, as a supremely kind, generous, wise, and drily witty teacher, coach, colleague, and friend.
In retirement in 1995, John moved to Tucson, Arizona. His wife Mary Lou died in 2003, and in 2005 he married Karen Heusinkveld. In Tucson he served as a docent at Kitt Peak National Observatory, and as a tour guide at the Mirror Laboratory at the University of Arizona. For many years he faithfully supervised sandwich-making at St. Mark’s Presbyterian. He and Karen loved exploring the Southwest together, and making annual trips to see family and friends in New England. Over the course of 30 years he hiked into the Grand Canyon countless times, and particularly loved introducing students to the Canyon on Spring break trips. His last trip was with Karen in 2007.
He is predeceased by his parents, his son Timothy Craig Coffin, his brother Richard Slater Coffin, and sisters Priscilla Coffin Baxter, Jean Coffin McClung, and Laura Treman Almquist.
He is survived by his wife Karen Heusinkveld, daughter Christina Coffin of New Haven, Ct, son John F. Coffin of Forestville, Ca, stepsons John Heusinkveld (Dominika) of Tucson and David Heusinkveld (Regan) of Nashville Tn., sister Carol Treman des Cognets of Tucson, and many beloved nieces and nephews and their families.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Canterbury School (www.cbury.org) , 101 Aspetuck Avenue, New Milford, CT 06776 Attn: Advancement Office, referencing the Grandview Scholars Program; or to the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) , 225 N. Michigan Avenue Floor 17, Chicago, IL 60601.
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