AP NEWS

Faith secret to 110-year-old woman’s long life

March 21, 2019

On her 110th birthday, Mary Coffey kept holding the microphone after joyfully leading a dining room full of friends and family through the first verse and chorus of her favorite song, “How Great Thou Art.”

The longtime Sugar Creek resident wanted to continue singing and telling the world about her God, something she’s been doing for more years than most of us have been alive. Along with the song, she recited from memory some Bible verses from the book of Job.

Coffey celebrated with a special birthday party on Tuesday at her home, Colonial Oaks Senior Living at First Colony. As various people asked her questions about her advice and experiences, she was sharp-minded and eager to share.

When Coffey was born on March 20, 1909, in Burgin, Ky., William Howard Taft had just moved into the White House, the automobile industry was barely getting started and few things in an American home ran on electricity, her son David said.

He said she is now the second oldest person in Texas.

While the world has changed around her, Coffey said her faith has been her mainstay and the recipe for her long life.

“My secret is that I’ve stayed close to the Lord for many years past,” Coffey said, referencing when she helped start Sugar Creek Baptist Church with just a handful of others. “[We] canvassed this whole area, knocked on doors and helped start the church.”

Today, that church is flourishing with more than 11,000 members.

David said when his mother was young, she wanted to be a lawyer (and had the grades to back it up). But back then most Southern women went to finishing school instead. So she married Otis Coffey, who was an educator from The University of Texas that enjoyed coaching.

As Otis went on to coach four Olympic track and field and boxing teams in Pakistan, as well as starting 15 commercial colleges, his wife went with him. In all, David said she has traveled around the world 18 times. He remembered “her avid love of cultures, social ideals, different kinds of people.”

In 110 years, Coffey has seen a lot of changes. She recounted her mother’s reaction to American women gaining the right to vote in 1920.

“I remember her standing up in the breakfast room where we lived over in Sugar Creek and talking about the women being given this. And she was laughing about it, you know, talking about it,” she said.

Coffey encouraged others to follow Jesus Christ and said with confidence, “Read the Bible and have Bible studies. A lot of them. You can’t have too many Bible studies.”

David’s wife Ida Glaser said they live in the Houston area to be near to Coffey and that looking after her is a “responsibility” but certainly a “privilege.” Coffey currently helps out with two Bible studies, and Glaser said it is encouraging that her mother-in-law still wants to be active and engaged with people.

“It’s wonderful that at this stage in her ministry with all the experience that she’s got, that she still wants to come and get involved with what we do,” she said.

Glaser said just recently, Coffey learned of a young Bengali man who was battling cancer, so she went to the hospital to see him and to offer her encouragement and prayers.

John Rushing is an executive pastor at Sugar Creek Baptist Church. He said Coffey is a great inspiration to the congregation that she once helped to build.

“To still have one of our founding members, who would have been 60-plus years old at the time. And here we are in 2019, and she is still very much with us,” Rushing said. “She’s present in mind, body and spirit in every sense. So to have her with us at this juncture and the legacy of our church and just the intersection of her life is a pretty amazing thing to celebrate.”

tracy.maness@hcnonline.com