By SHARRON HALEY
TURBEVILLE - A true Southern gentleman, American hero, Clarendon County ambassador and a man of devout faith who loved God, his family and friends, his town, community and country passed away June 6 at the age of 99.
Retired Col. Larry Warren Coker, a native of the Turbeville area, was born "on the hill of Puddin Swamp." The second of six children, Coker grew up on a farm. His family and community instilled in the youngster values that he carried with him for almost a century.
"Col. Larry was the epitome of a Southern gentleman," said Marie Hardy Dukes in an online tribute to Coker. "He loved God, his family, and his country! Turbeville will truly miss his contributions to the community."
Coker grew up during a time that youngsters today could not comprehend. Coker's family, friends and neighbors had no indoor plumbing. There was no electricity. His life centered around family and farming.
Coker's devout faith began at the age of 12 when he attended a local revival. In 1942, he rededicated his faith and was given a rededication card that he carried in his wallet for almost eight decades.
A 1942 graduate of Clemson University, Coker earned a Bachelor of Science degree in General Science and was commissioned into the United States Army and spent the next 35 years serving his country in World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.
"He was an exceptional man who made a great contribution to his nation through his military service," said the Rev. Wright Turbeville, a longtime friend of Coker's. "When he retired, he came home, and his impact to this small community was immeasurable. He made all the difference in the world."
Along with his decorated military service, Coker was also an educator. He taught, coached and served as assistant principal in Sumter. In 1951, Coker earned a Master of Education degree from Texas Christian University, and in 1979, he earned a Doctor of Philosophy from Texas A&M University.
In 2012, Coker was awarded the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce's Ambassador of the Year award for his tireless devotion to his community and county.
"They could not have selected a more deserving ambassador," Turbeville added. "They could not have chosen a better ambassador for Clarendon County."
Turbeville said Coker's devotion to his church and Turbeville's faith community saw no bounds.
"He loved his church," Turbeville shared.
While remembrances of flowers are welcome, Coker's family asked that he be remembered through a memorial gift to a charity of choice with an investment in the community that he loved so dearly. Memorials or gifts can also be made to Pine Grove United Methodist Church or Horse Branch Free Will Baptist Church.
In his obituary, Coker was quoted as saying, "God has been kind to me through all these times and years, and He has provided guidance, inspiration, needs, energy and good health. To Him be the glory!"
Turbeville said Coker was a disciplined person who respected his elders immensely.
"His dad, Mr. Clarendon Coker, bought his first Ford, one of the first cars anyone had in Turbeville, from Mr. Billy Plowden in New Zion," Turbeville said. "Larry and his younger brother, Homer, were riding in the back seat of the car, and Mr. Clarence had one of his workers in the front seat. They were going down a bumpy dirt road when Larry called out to his dad. He called him Father. Mr. Clarence told Larry that he was talking to Bub and to not interrupt. Larry called out 'Father' maybe three more times, and finally Mr. Clarence asked him what he wanted. Larry told his father that Homer had fallen out of the car."
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