Harry L. Coil


The little songs of summer are all gone today.

The little insect instruments are all packed away.

The bumblebee’s snare drum, the grasshopper’s guitar,

The katydid’s castanets – I wonder where they are.


The bullfrog’s banjo, the cricket’s violin,

The dragonfly’s cello have ceased their merry din.

Oh, where is the orchestra? From harpist down to

drummer, they all disappeared with your passing.


My precious, beloved father, my heart aches for the days you were with me. Where is the joy I felt only yesterday? I’ll love you into forever, remembering you always and someday I shall join you where you are.

From his children: Perry, Lisa, Patrick, Andrew, and Stephen. And Anthony Arbuckle, the child he helped raise and whom he considered to be like a son to him.

Harry was born in Jefferson to Marion Leonard Coil and Mildred Leota Bedford Coil. He had seven siblings: Albert, Betty, Russell, Marcella, Melba, Alberta and Robert, who is the lone survivor of those children.

Harry was a self-made man. He had no formal education; however, he was an extremely intelligent man. He could take the engine of his 1949 Ford apart and put it back together again. He could rig solutions to the smallest mechanical problem with an ease few men possess. He was the greatest Mickey Mouser problem solver ever born.

He rose from childhood in abject poverty to enjoy a career as a deputy sheriff in Orange County, California. He was the lead radio dispatcher for the Harbors, Beaches, and Parks in Newport Beach. He retired after 30 years. Before he retired, his record was impeccable. He received a commendation from the Navy Department for his handling of the emergency that occurred when two Navy ships collided off the jetty in Newport Beach. He was also given a certificate of recognition from President Nixon for his efforts that day. Every year the department voted for the patrolman of the year. Though Harry was only a dispatcher and could not advance further due to his disability, he was voted patrolman of the year. No dispatcher in the history of the department had ever enjoyed that honor, and none since.

To go back into time: Harry volunteered to join the Army at the age of 18. He was sent from boot camp to Korea. He attained the rank of sergeant within a year of his arrival. He was wounded there one night when his squad was out on patrol. The men had stopped to rest and were sitting in a circle. There was an unbreakable rule that there was to be no smoking, but someone within that circle broke that rule and lit a match. Instantly, there was a mortar barrage and Harry was wounded by shrapnel in his back, arm and leg. He was sent to Japan and then on to the states to Walter Reed Hospital. As an example of who Harry was, the doctors at Walter Reed wanted to remove his foot. Harry shouted, “You are not taking my foot off!” He later asked what he could do to prevent them from doing that and he was told he would have to go AWOL, which he promptly did. When he was returned to the hospital, maggots were placed inside his ankle to eat the dead flesh and his foot was a part of him until the day he died. To say the least, he was a very stubborn man, but that stubbornness saw him through much adversity.

Harry could not run beside a child learning how to ride his first bike. He could not play baseball with them or even play catch, but he gave his children more. More love, more strength; he was a perfect example of what a father should be. Until his death they always knew if they needed anything he could provide, emotionally or physically, he could be counted on. His children adored him. He was their hero.

His job at the department consisted of four month-long shifts: days, evenings, graveyard, and the excruciating relief shift, which was comprised of all those shifts rolled into one. How he must have relished the normalcy of his life after he retired. No one deserved normalcy more than he.

Wherever he went, he made friends. Men, women, and children; they all fell under his spell of friendliness and generosity.

Harry and I were married in 1955. We shared 32 years and five children. Although he had remarried later in life, before he died, I considered him my special friend, one whom I will now mourn with our children.

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161