Opinion: Donald Coker was loving, Christian leader in Sumter, around the world for decades


This tribute is written out of a sense of obligation because of the blessings and opportunities my family and I have experienced since moving to Sumter more than 60 years ago and serving as teacher and administrator in the city schools and community leader in numerous organizations. During our first days, I met Donald at a prayer meeting in the old YMCA downtown. That relationship has grown during the past 60 years with his loving wife, Lois Ann, and each child that the Lord added to his family and mine.

Donald was then and continued to be a consistent, caring Christian leader. He was the same with the governor as the custodian, the same with the preacher as with the painter. I saw the same consistency whether he was sharing with a principal or a prisoner. Donald was a gentle, loving, Christian leader. He served in many Clarendon County leadership roles from his home on Puddin Swamp from school district leadership to church and community roles. Donald influenced Christian organizations locally and worldwide through the Gideon ministry and denominational mission work.

He used his influence within his home county and traveled in many foreign countries. I saw the identical Spirit using him encouraging Christians in small villages along tributaries of the Amazon River in Peru and mission stations in Lima, Peru, where the New Testament had been printed in the natives' language for the first time. They made numerous mission trips to countries across the Far East, Africa and the Middle East.

I witnessed his super work ethic, anchored at Coker Builders in Turbeville, as we worked the grounds as a board member with Michael Guido in his prayer garden in Metter, Georgia, and Ambassador Camp. He made so many contributions to individuals and organizations with needs that remain unmentioned; only the Lord knows.

Donald's tribute would have to include his extended and immediate family. They all experienced a caring, consistent and hardworking father who loved each one very much. They have much to thank the Lord for as they look at Donald and Lois Ann. I am extremely grateful to God for the times traveling the small roads of eastern North Carolina and South Carolina as well as the state's rivers enjoying the fellowship and encouragement that my dear friend shared with me. The Lord has taken a Godly leader home, and he will be missed. He leaves us as disciples with a load to share.