Memorial for Nellie Mae Coffin, Smith, De Juan

Dec 13, 1911 through  Jan. 28, 2007

by Pastor Stu

One of the things I found out that just surprised me is that Nellie was a great Elvis Presley fan.  Loved his music and collected his memorabilia, such as calendars, clock’s, key chains, plates, or whatever she found displaying her musical hero.

It is dangerous to describe any individual, as we are very complex, but she was without a doubt good-hearted, kind, loved children, good-humored and adored by her grand children.

Her favorite flower was the rose, and her food was spare ribs or cornbread.  Also chili beans.

Nellie was a special gift from heaven, delightful incense from above, who brought a delightful aroma to her surroundings. 

Nellie was preceded in death by her two husbands (Terry C. Smith and Antonio De Juan) and her oldest child, son George Richard (Dick) Smith.  She is survived by three daughters…..

Peggy Jane Bakke, and husband OB of Cathedral City, CA.,

Trudy Annette Martinez, of Lancaster, CA and

Connie Banez of Everett, WA

Nellie had 12 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren.

Nellie De Juan walked among us as a mortal, tasted deeply of the joys and the sorrows of life, and now has made the upward trip to be with her Lord and master and begin the enjoyments of the heavenly kingdom.

May we give thanks to God for her life and rejoice in all that made her the woman she was.

Memories shared by daughters Peg and then Trudy with Scriptures read by grand-daughter, Kelley.


Nellie Mae Coffin, Smith, De Juan

Dec 13, 1911 – Jan 28, 2007

We are gathered to remember and celebrate the life of Nellie Mae Coffin, Smith, De Juan.

Gathered at this grave side, I am reminded of the old Puritan divine, John Owen.

While he was lying on his death-bed, his secretary was reading a letter he had written in John

Owens’s name and he read,

“I am still in the land of the living.” 

Owens said, stop, change that and say, “I am yet in the land of the dying; but shall soon be in the land of the living.”

Your friend and loved one left the land of the dying for the land of the living.

It was just a couple of weeks before Christmas, in the year 1911, when the family of George A and Katie Everett Coffin welcomed a new little girl into the family circle.  The new darling of the family was named Nellie Mae.  She was the fourth child in a family which in time would include 13 children.

Though born in Sherman, the family moved shortly after, a few miles north to Dennison, Texas, just south of the Oklahoma border, where they lived on a farm. 

We don’t know a lot about her childhood except that there must have been a lot of birthday parties, with 13 kids, always babies, lots of washing, ironing, cooking, taking care of a large garden, canning, there were chickens to feed and eggs to collect and of course cows to milk, butter to churn.  

When Nellie was 11 years old, her mother gave birth to twins.  Since mother had to work in the cotton mill, Nellie was taken out of school and given the responsibility of caring for the little twins.

Her adolescent and teen age years were filled with the things which pertain to managing and operating a household. 

I am not sure of the particulars but in her early 20’s, Nellie met a man, Terry Charles Smith and fell in love, and at the age of 24 they married in Dennison, Texas.  Shortly after the marriage, they moved to Los Angeles in Southern California. Her husband was a conductor on the famous Red line, (Street Car) and she worked at home as a housewife and homemaker.

To this marriage were born four children, one son, the oldest George, who was killed in a motorcycle accident, and three daughters.

The marriage in time became tumultuous, and in 1946 they divorced. Reading between the lines, I think that even though there was obvious tension, these were perhaps good years for Nellie and the young family. After their separation, Nellie and the children moved to Bell, a Los Angeles suburb.

Nellie moved her family to Banning where they lived for three years and then out here to the Palm Springs desert.  The move was precipitated by a doctor’s suggestion that she move to a drier climate for her son’s health.

In the desert, Nellie blossomed, finding she excelled in the hotel industry.  She worked for many of the major resort hotels in the capacity of a maid, till she got on with the Biltmore, where she worked for over 10 years as the executive housekeeper.  Not bad for a little gal from Sherman, Texas.  She retired in 1977.

Following her retirement she was the personal housekeeper and personal assistant to the former singer & actress Ginny Simms. 

In or around 1979, she moved to Ridgecrest, CA to stay with daughter Trudy and then in 2001 came back to the Palm Springs desert and stayed with daughter Peg and husband OB.

In July of 1957 she married Tony de Juan, whom she met through her work, and they had pleasant years together, till his death July 19, 1971. 

Nellie was an amazing lady.  Growing up deprived of the opportunity to get a high school education, she raised four wonderful children, rose to the top of her profession.  As the saying goes, ‘the cream rises to the top.’

A few things about Nellie before we hear from family:  Nellie was a quilter.   She belonged to the Ridgecrest Quilting Club and entered some of her work at the county fair.  The quality of her work was noted in that she won a number of blue ribbons.   I think all of the grand children have a quilt made with love by Nell, and she also passed on her quilting skills to one of her daughters. 

She had an infectious laugh and the grand kids just loved to be around her as she was such fun and an inspiration.  

Somewhere along the way she learned to make jewelry, and this was a great way for her to bond with her grandchildren, especially the girls.  They remember many fun and funny times with her.

Square dancing and also ball room dancing were activities she participated in and she spent many evenings on the dance floor. 

 Committal Ceremony

It is with joy in our hearts born of years of association with Nellie De Juan, and faith in our Savior Jesus Christ who said:

 I am the resurrection and the life; she that believes in Me, though she were dead, yet shall she live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die!

That we bring the body of Nellie to its final resting place. 

Nellie lived the good life.   Nellie fought the good fight.  Like the apostle said, ‘there is laid up for her in heaven a crown of righteousness.

Nellie has gone to take up her residence in that new place her Lord has prepared for her.  

With faith in Jesus Christ, we lovingly bring the body of our sister Nellie Mae De Juan to be buried in its human imperfection.

With confidence in God who gives life to all things, we pray that he will rise up her mortal body to the perfection and company of the saints.

May God give her merciful judgment and forgive all her sins.  May Christ, the Good Shepherd, lead her safely home to be at peace with God our Father, and may she be happy forever with all the saints in the presence of the eternal king.

Let us pray:

Loving God, we give thanks and praise for you created the earth and the heavens and set the stars in their places.  When mankind was caught in the snare of death, you set us free through your Son Jesus Christ.

 In fulfillment of your will, our Lord Jesus Christ conquered death and rose to life to bring salvation and resurrection life to those who belong to him by faith.

 We ask you, Lord, to bless this grave.  Give our sister peace and rest, and on the Day of Judgment raise her to eternal life with all your saints.


The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you , and remain with you always.  Amen.

Warm summer sun,
shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind,
blow softly here;
Green sod above,
lie light, lie light.
Good-night, dear heart,
good-night, good-night.
Mark Twain
Epitaph for his daughter (1896)

For my meditation this afternoon, I share some scriptures   from the book considered the oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job.

The book of Job deals with life as we all know it, difficulty, trials, suffering, questions, doubt and where is God when the going gets tough?

Listen to these words from the ancient past.

  “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.    (Job 14:1)
 He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.    (Job 14:2)
 If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.    (Job 14:14)

Job asks the same question that we have all asked at one time or another.

 If we die, is that it?  Or, do we continue to live in some form or another? 

Life and death or Birth and death.  Beginning and end.

Our human condition doesn’t get much more basic than this, does it?  I don’t think so.

Now Job not only asked the question, but he answers it.

A few pages later, he is found to say:
 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.    (Job 19:25)
 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;    (Job 19:26)
 I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!    (Job 19:27)
Listen to these assertions.  These are not the ramblings of a mad man, but the assurance of faith.

 Job’s soul has touched the Almighty, and he knows, oh how he knows, that death is not the end.

 Death is merely a transition; the moving from this existence to another, better, fairer, and more wonderful than human mind can comprehend.

 Someone has put it like this:  “For the believer, death does not extinguish the light.  It puts out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

 The Judea-Christian traditions are solidly grounded in the fact that Death does not end it all, but rather, that death is the means of passage from this life to the next.

This is the Christian Gospel.  It is good news.   Nellie believed it and I pray you do as well.

(edited by Trudy A. Martinez)

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BA degree in English with a single subject certification 1994 I enjoy writing, art (all forms), especially drawing/multi-media , quilting, sewing, embroidery, photography (still and video), and most of all, my grandchildren and great-grand-children.

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