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Marie Coffey's legacy reaches far beyond her music
Psalms 150 says, "Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."
Marie Coffey is most certainly making a joyful musical noise in heaven today, as those who mourn her passing remember the beautiful and elegant lady who graced the McCook community with her talent and wisdom for almost 70 years. Teacher, director, accompanist, encourager, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend - Marie, 95, passed away last week in McCook. A Celebration of Life will be held Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at the Memorial United Methodist Church, where she had served as choir director until her retirement in 2014.
Marie had found her passion in life, and that passion was music and playing the piano. She told the Gazette in 2014, "Music is in my DNA, it's who I am."
She started playing the piano at age four and she never stopped. She majored in music with a piano emphasis at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, followed by ten years of teaching at Brewster, Kansas, Gothenburg and Maywood, Nebraska. She moved to McCook in 1947 with her husband and their two children. When her children were older, she returned to teaching music and taught at McCook Public Schools for 24 years. Retiring from teaching in 1985, she continued to accompany students for music contests and play for musicals staged by Southwest Nebraska Community Theatre Association, as well as serving her church as organist, pianist, and choir director.
Through the years, thousands of students, church attendees, and musical show crowds have been treated to the piano and organ expertise and insights of Mrs. Coffey.
Kathy Latta, who had the tremendous task of filling Marie's shoes as choir director after her retirement, said that Marie loved all music, but was especially fond of strong, emotional music, which she referred to as "schmaltzy". She said that Marie never wanted to give up playing the piano and she never did. Kathy also appreciated Marie's humble modesty. "Whenever she would say something kind of mixed up, she would tell us, 'take a Dutchman for what he means, not what he says'."
According to Janet Hepp, who served in the choir and through SWNCTA with Marie, her musical enthusiasm was deep-seated. Janet conveyed that Marie had back surgery a few years ago in Colorado. "After the surgery when she was just coming out of the anesthesia, Marie was highly doped up. She had such joy, and she would snag anyone who walked by and insisted that they join her in singing 'This is the Day that the Lord Has Made'. Doctors, nurses, interns -- everyone -- was in the recovery room singing with Marie. You couldn't say no to Marie when she wanted you to sing with her."
Marie's dedication to SWNCTA performances was admirable. During a six- to eight-week practice schedule for a performance, many of the on-stage actors are often given a night or two off from rehearsals. Not Marie. She attended every practice as accompanist during her more than 25-year association with SWNCTA.
Marie's compassion and gentleness has touched many lives. Her kind-hearted concern for people and her love of life will serve as an example to all of us. Marie loved music and she loved the people who appreciate it. We all love you back, Marie.