Jan Coe: Known for Her Tireless Community Work, Love of Family

(Contributed Photo)
Jan Coe passed away Oct. 22 after a short battle with a rare and aggressive cancer.

    Best known for her boundless love of family and friends, dedicated community work, passion for Bay Area sports teams and enthusiasm for being a Nana to her grandchildren,

Janice Becker Coe passed away Oct. 22. While family and friends mourn her loss, she will always be remembered and celebrated by those who loved her.
    “Jan was an intuitive leader of volunteers, flawlessly matching the right person with the right job, while providing volunteers the tools to be successful,” said her good friend and fellow volunteer Vanessa Crews. “She worked with grace, charm and humor, inspiring and motivating everyone around her to do their very best. Bringing her own warmth and humor to every position, she made volunteer service a fun social experience, never work. She was my friend and mentor, and I know I am a better person and leader because of her.”
    Born March 16, 1952, in Pueblo, Colorado, Jan lived briefly in Georgia, Washington and Massachusetts before her family settled in Denver. Upon graduation from high school, Jan attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas where she met her husband, Alan, and graduated with honors in 1974.
    Jan and Alan started their life together in Sacramento, where Alan was stationed as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. Jan taught kindergarten and first grade at Sacramento Country Day School and earned her master’s degree in education. She later taught first grade at the Cathedral School for Boys in San Francisco.
    Jan and Alan started their family in the Bay Area in 1979. Although they lived in Sydney, Australia, for six years and Houston for three years, home ended up being Orinda, where they have been since 1988.
    Jan was the consummate volunteer as their three children (Amy, Lisa and Brian) grew up. Beginning with running successful fundraisers at Glorietta Elementary School, she then, as her children moved on to Orinda Intermediate School, transformed OIS’s food canteen, Bulldog Kennel, into a highly successful venture. To accomplish that, she organized hundreds of volunteers. When her children entered Miramonte High School, she became the Miramonte Parents’ Club President, organizing snack programs and chairing two highly successful Grad Nights.
    She also helped raise crucial school funding as president of the Educational Foundation of Orinda (EFO), running a successful campaign for a parcel tax for the Orinda Union School District in 1994 and chairing a successful bond measure for the Acalanes Union High School District in 1996.
    “I didn’t learn from Jan telling me what to do.  I learned from the example she set,” said Paula Goodwin, VP of EFO when Jan was president. “She worked very hard, and you had to work hard to keep up with her. It was no surprise Jan was the first EFO president to get us over the $1 million fundraising mark.  When she came off EFO, we gave her a brick on the Miramonte Wall of Excellence in honor of achieving this milestone.”
     According to Goodwin, Jan was a natural leader, fair and inclusive: “It was an honor to have known Jan Coe. Orinda lost a great citizen.”   
    Although not as challenging as running a parcel tax and bond campaign but no less important, Jan and Vanessa Crews were legendary for their Apricot Pepper Jelly sold at the annual Holiday Bazaar as a school fundraiser. “We actually made 1,000 jars of pepper jelly in a single day,” Crews recalled.
    “Jan was dedicated to improving education resources for our students, parents and teachers. It was her tireless efforts along with other community stalwarts that established the Educational Foundation and secured much needed additional funding for our schools,” said Sue Severson.
    Jan’s many honors included sharing Orinda’s 1998 Citizen of the Year honors with Crews and winning the American Association of University Woman’s Distinguished Woman Award in 2011. She returned to the workforce as finance director for the Honorable Ellen Tauscher, who represented California’s 10th congressional district. Continuing her passion for education, Jan also tutored first graders at Burckhalter Elementary School in Oakland for more than a decade. She and Alan were longtime members of Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church, where Jan served in Children’s Ministry and as an elder.
    Jan always took great pride in her family and its accomplishments. Alan noted in recent years “she was happiest playing with, and providing a loving influence for, her five grandchildren.”
    She passed peacefully at home in Orinda, surrounded by her loving family on Oct. 22. She fought a courageous but, ultimately, short-lived battle with a rare and aggressive cancer first diagnosed in March.
    While Jan will be greatly missed, her legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of her family and many friends. She is survived by her husband of 46 years, Alan Clemmons Coe; their three children, Amy Coe Rodde (Brian), of Hillsborough; Lisa Coe Villarosa (Marshal), of Moraga; and Brian Alan Coe (fiancée Cheyenne Skye) of Santa Barbara; and five grandchildren – Austin, Owen and Alexa Rodde of Hillsborough, and Ryan and Eva Villarosa of Moraga. Jan is also survived by her sister, Dr. Barbara Becker of Centennial, CO, brother-in-law Richard Coe (Deb) of Wichita, KS, along with five nieces and nephews and 10 great-nieces and nephews.
    A celebration of Jan’s life will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Jan’s memory may be made to the American Association of University Women OML Community Outreach Fund or to the P.E.O. Foundation. Please see www.hullschapel.com/obituaries/Janice-Coe?obId=18720775#/celebrationWall for more information about how to donate.


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