Death of Kenneth A. Coates, Former Missionary to Japan

Death of Kenneth A. Coates, Former Missionary to Japan

1921 – 2011

It is with great sadness that Global Ministries learned of the death of Reverend Kenneth Coates, former missionary to Japan.

Kenneth Coates passed away on Sunday, July 17, 2011, in the Health Service Center at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California. He was born March 21, 1921, in Oakland, California. He married Barbara Jones on March 15, 1944.

Ken earned a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He served as a United Church of Christ (UCC) minister for 37 years, including some time as a missionary at the Kobe Union Church in Kobe, Japan. 

He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He is survived by his devoted wife of 67 years, Barbara; his sister, Carol Copeland; his sisters-in-law, Margie Coates and Lesley Jones Alexander; his four children and their families: Carol (David), Lynne (Ralph), Jim (Louise), David; his nine grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; ;many dear nieces and nephews; and his foreign exchange student daughter, Wanjira Wanjiru. His twin brother, Barrett, Jr., predeceased him.

Ken is remembered with admiration and love by members of the churches he served: Hillsboro (Hillsboro, Oregon), Mira Vista (El Cerrito, California), Parkrose (Portland, Oregon), Kobe Union Church (Kobe, Japan), and Bay Shore (Long Beach, California). Calling on church members was one of his joys. His 15 years following his formal retirement, Ken provided Sunday services at Peppermint Ridge, Corona, California, a home for developmentally disabled adults.

A passion for social justice guided Ken throughout his life. From preaching in support of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s to organizing Amnesty International groups, Ken gave much of his life helping to create a better world for all humanity. His many activities included helping to found Snow Cap Community Charities in Oregon, working with local food banks, tutoring in the Vista del Valle Elementary School (Claremont), and corresponding with an inmate on death row. Through all, Ken expressed a deep sense of purpose and caring.

“Did I tell you the one about . . . ?” was a familiar opening to the many jokes that Ken shared with his family and community. He loved to use humor as a bridge to reach out to people. As head of the furniture sales at Pilgrim Place, Ken often shared a humorous song to the delight of the residents. His enthusiastic telling of jokes will truly be missed.

A celebration of the Reverend Coates’ life was held on Saturday, August 6, 2011, at the Claremont United Church of Christ, 233 W. Harrison Ave. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Pilgrim Place 660 Avery Road, Claremont, CA  91711-4222; Amnesty International USA, 5 Penn Plaza, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10001 or to a favorite charity. Condolences may be sent to:  Barbara Coates, 627 Leyden Lane, Apt. 116, Claremont, CA  91711-4236