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)

My Aunt Peg

“My Aunt Peg”

By Trudy A. Martinez

How do I describe my Aunt Peg? I have difficulty finding enough adjectives. She once told me, “God broke that mold when I was born.” She was born on April 19, 1917 to her parents: Blanche Jones and David Smith. I think she was right–the mold was broken–because the Aunt Peg I knew was one of a kind.

Of course, she was always right! She said, “It’s my parents fault!” And when I asked her what she meant she said, “Anytime you put a blank-ka-de-blank Smith with a blank-ka-de-blank Jones–you’re bound to get something unusual!” And unusual she was! She made a lasting impression on everyone she met and I know she did on me.

In preparation, I was going to share a few moments with a collage of pictures. I needed something to put the pictures on. At first, I thought I’d use one of Peg’s quilts–but I didn’t want to take a chance of messing up one of her masterpieces. So I got into this box Aunt Peg had shown me that had some sample patterns she had fixed so I’d be able to figure out how to put them together. Beautiful Patterns–but they were put together where everything fit together perfectly–uniform like–you know what I mean?

But as Aunt Peg always said, “You can’t put a square PEG into a round hole.” The perfect patterns were Aunt Peg’s creations–Aunt Peg was not perfect. So I certainly couldn’t fit MY AUNT PEG on a uniform pattern–She’d look out-of-place!

So I dug to the bottom of this box, there I found–I found these unusual little squares that Peg made–they didn’t match–yet they did–what I mean–is the squares didn’t match each other–but when I sewed them all together–they matched my Aunt Peg! –as a result I had a peculiar quilt! I think she’d be proud–that the first quilt I attempted represents her life.

Those bunch of squares looked like they were put together without rhyme or reason! There are still rough edges on the quilt. But I think you’ll agree: My Aunt Peg had a lot of rough edges! The lines go every which way—in all directions. Her life did the same. I was asked what my Aunt’s occupation was. I couldn’t answer that question with one answer. Because in her life time, she had many occupations:

She told me once–she drove a one of those big trucks. The owner of the truck wired four by four’s to pedals, so her short legs could reach them. Texas had both wet and dry counties. She attempted to make them all wet by running bootleg in that truck over those county lines. I didn’t believe her. But her dad, my granddad, confirmed it.

She worked on the assembly lines during world-war II, making radios.

She drove a greyhound bus across the United States.

She sang in a Nightclub. Her favorite song was “Peg of my heart I LOVE YOU!”

She was a hairdresser.

It was 1936 when my mother and Aunt Peg’s life were thrown together. As my mom tells it, Peg thumbed (hitchhiked) her way back to Texas. When she got to Texas, she got Don Mac Kennzie’s (her second husband) Open Top T Model Ford, one of those one-seat-jobs with the rumble seat in the back and NO TOP, picked up my mom, and headed for California. To make a long story short, the highlight of their trip took place somewhere outside of San Diego on a hill or mountain with an elevation of 6,000 ft. It was freezing cold. And it was Middle-of-the-night. The brakes on the car went out. Peg, as stubborn as she was, was determined to make it down that hill, brakes or not. So she took my mom’s quilts and threw them over mom’s head, telling her to keep her head down and then she took off down the mountain without any brakes. That was only the beginning. Aunt Peg ran without brakes ever since.

The diagonal pattern that extends top right corner of the quilt to the bottom left corner represents her travel through life.

Very few of her occupations were rewarded with money. And very few squares in the quilt have the money green color. However, the PEA GREEN color (as she called it) can be seen through out the quilt. This color represents the occupations she took on without reward and the outward-stretched lines of the diagonal pattern represent her giving nature:

1. She was a Nurse. She cared for her sick mother, My Granny Blanche, for years–until she died in 1957 at the age of 63.

2. She was a relief mother to my mother, Nellie De Juan. The only vacation my mother ever got was when My Aunt Peg hauled all four of us monsters off with her for the experiences of our lifetimes.

The experiences we had on those trips could fill a book. Once, (and only once that I can recall) I gave her some problems. It all started with her sticking up for me and being protective of me like a mother hen. But My Aunt Peg, with her colorful speech and fiery eyes, got herself arrested for being drunk and disorderly when all she had had to drink was coke-a-cola–and it was my fault! My granddad let her sit in jail for a day to cool off, for fear she might kill me. On the way home that same trip, she stopped at a greyhound bus station, bought a ticket, and put me on it, thinking I was headed for home. However, that didn’t happen. The bus broke down, leaving me stranded in Las Vegas for eight hours. And when I finally got home–my mom had moved. It took me two days to find her. And then the feathers flew–I’m not going to go into what happened to me and My Aunt Peg when my mother got wind of it.

3. She was a seamstress and dressmaker. Every year a few weeks before school started, we all went to Aunt Peg’s and Granny’s. There Aunt Peg, cut and sewed our entire wardrobe for the coming school year. On one of those trips Granny told me, “Your Aunt Peg is all bark and no bite! She yells and hollers to keep control.” She said it had something to do with her being so short. Her brother, my dad, was 6′ 4″ and yelling and screaming kept him at arm’s length. And we were getting so big she was scared we’d clobber her someday the way he did. Granny, without Aunt Peg’s knowledge, egged me on to get her down in a hammer hold and make her say uncle. When I did, my Granny laughed so hard–I thought she was going to keel over and die laughing. However, now that I had her pinned, what was I going to do? I couldn’t get up for fear of death. You would have thought I had pinned a sailor who had been out to sea too long. Aunt Peg’s voice got hoarse before she said UNCLE–I still didn’t let her up until she promised she wasn’t going to kill me and I didn’t EVEN then –until she started laughing.

4. She was a teacher. My Aunt Peg and Granny had their own chickens in her backyard in Los Angeles. It was quite a sight to see her chase the chickens around the yard. I didn’t watch the rest. Then she brought the chicken in the house, minus its head, plopped it in a pan of boiling water, and told me it was my job to clean it. I plucked the feathers. I managed that feat and I thought I was through. However, Aunt Peg said I wasn’t. I had to clean it too. All my excuses: “I’m only nine (9)” “Get my brother–he loves to do gory stuff”, failed. She stood behind me–I cried–but I cleaned the chicken, pulling out an egg I quenched and said, “There’s an egg in here,” and Aunt Peg replied in her colorful manner: “Where did you think a blank-ka-de-blank egg comes from?” With this experience and many, many others, she instilled in me this feeling that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I set my mind to it. 

The words “I can’t” were not in her vocabulary. Even though she only completed the eighth grade, she was not handicapped because of her lack of education. She was her own teacher. She taught herself through trial an error. She could repair a car better than most men–if she wanted to. My Granddad use to call her “His little grease monkey”. Her brother relied on her to fix his car when it broke down. She had said, “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I was born with a wrench in my hand.”

5. She was a gardener and farmer. She loved flowers and plants of all kinds. Her favorite flower was the “Poor Man’s Orchid” (Iris). She was never rich with material wealth. When she lived in the country side of Guadeloupe, California, we located her house for the first time by her fence of “Poor Man’s Orchid’s”. Pete said, “We’re here–this is got to be your Aunt’s!” He was right!

6. She Leather tooled. She made wallets, purses, belts, watch bands, and the like. You had to be special to receive a gift made by her. She did beautiful work. She was an Artist.

7. She was a Quilt maker, self-taught at the age of 55. Her quilts were as unique, as she.

8. She was my Aunt.

Her life went in all directions, just as the lines of the unfinished quilt. She had a zest for life. She learned to ride a motorcycle along with my Uncle Chris late in life after she moved to Ridgecrest because of her health in 1974.

 As you can see by one of the pictures on the quilt, she also attempted riding a Go-cart.

She’d try anything once. Those that knew her knew how generous she was: She would give you the shirt off her if you needed it.

The gingham checks represent–the little bit of country that will always remind me of her. The bright colors and flowers represent the way she lived her life and her colorful and flowery speech she shared with those who didn’t want to do things her way. The red represents her fiery temper.

Even in her death, my Aunt helped me. I was having problems describing her, until I put her little block pieces together and let the pieces she left for me, unknowingly, do it for me. The quilt describes her best–it is unique, just as she was.

In the hospital, when she was stripped of her speech because her vocal cords had been paralyzed from the respiratory tube down her throat, I had an opportunity to communicate her needs for her. I told her to mouth her words and I would read her lips. I told her to go slow because I was rusty. She did. I repeated her words, she nodded. Then I asked her a question–I don’t remember the question, but I’ll never forget the answer. I was speaking her words out loud to ensure what she said was what I was reading from her lips. I asked the question. And she mouthed “Hello”. I said, “Hello”. Her facial expression expressed a question mark. And my sister-in-law, Emily Marquez started laughing and told me she did not say “Hello”–She said, “Hell No!” I turned to My Aunt Peg and said, “That’s not fair, you have to use words that are in my vocabulary.” And Aunt Peg nearly choked to death from trying to laugh.