Jimmy Leon Coker
Jimmy Leon Coker
July 18, 1961 - January 16, 2021
Who can say they have been hated by an owl and loved by an ostrich at the same time? Jimmy Coker could. As the night keeper supervisor at Caldwell Zoo for over 24 years, he had some stories. The owl hated him so much it would fly from one end of its flight pen to the other following Jimmy and if Jimmy had to go inside the pen, the owl attacked him, once barely missing his eye. Ollie the ostrich loved him so much she would fall down in front of him in total submission.
Jimmy, born July 18, 1961, passed away peacefully in hospice Saturday evening, January 16, 2021. A Covid fever ended his struggle with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases sooner than expected.
Jimmy often reminisced about growing up in Tyler, Texas where he lived on Shady Trail and attended Boulter Junior High. He later moved with his parents and older sisters to Clemson Drive so that he could attend Robert E. Lee High School where he graduated in 1979. He and April married soon after and he supported her education to become a teacher as he worked for Southland Distribution Center. After staying on to the end helping Southland close their Tyler plant, Jimmy took a night job at Caldwell Zoo.
Jimmy loved God, family, and the outdoors, as well as classic trucks and motorcycles. One of his favorite hobbies was to go hunting on his brother-in-law’s property near Van where he nabbed a 12-point buck the last year he was able to hunt. He also enjoyed working on his 1966 Ford F100 pickup truck and riding his Honda Valkyrie. One of his best memories was riding the million-dollar highway in Colorado with April.
Jimmy leaves behind his wife of 41 years, April; two children and their spouses, Matt and Taylor, and Natalie and Bryan, and three beautiful and well-loved grandchildren: Kipson, Evelyn, and Olivia. He follows his parents Jerry and Billie Jean Coker and sisters Carol Cuca and Cathy McClendon in death, where they are again reunited as a family.
The family wishes to thank Oak Hills Terrace Memory Care, Visiting Angels, Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital Emergency Room, Oceans Behavioral Hospital in Longview, and Hospice of East Texas Homeplace, especially Maggie, Zeta, and Dr. Becker, for their compassionate care of Jimmy during his final days. Many thanks also goes to Dr. O. Ray Wilson of Tyler and Dr. Ashoo Mentreddi of Dallas for their medical expertise in treating Jimmy. Last but not least, the family wishes to thank all the friends who offered prayers on Jimmy’s behalf. We couldn’t have gotten through this difficult time without them.
A memorial service is being planned for a later date. Donations in Jimmy’s name could be made to the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County, the Parkinson’s Foundation, or Hospice of East Texas.