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B: 1929-07-21
D: 2019-08-26
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Marjorie Peterson
B: 1934-10-17
D: 2019-08-14
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Norman Merrill
B: 1950-08-18
D: 2019-08-02
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Ernest Schmidt
B: 1933-09-04
D: 2019-07-22
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Dorothy Landell
B: 1953-07-16
D: 2019-07-20
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B: 1921-01-10
D: 2019-07-12
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Lyle Cook
B: 1940-07-25
D: 2019-07-07
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Olin Sivertson
B: 1928-09-03
D: 2019-07-05
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Clifford Deverell
B: 1948-11-15
D: 2019-07-05
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Robyn Jones
B: 1950-04-10
D: 2019-07-05
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Bernell Peterson
B: 1929-11-17
D: 2019-07-03
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Melanie Bryde
B: 1947-07-05
D: 2019-06-29
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Burton Orr
B: 1947-08-18
D: 2019-06-28
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Harlan Crissey
B: 1938-06-02
D: 2019-06-27
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Goldie Sealey
B: 1915-12-04
D: 2019-06-24
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Lorraine Brunick
B: 1934-08-11
D: 2019-06-20
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Sigirid Nissen
B: 1922-03-02
D: 2019-06-19
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Roger Hale
B: 1944-11-16
D: 2019-06-10
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Marvin Girard
B: 1951-12-16
D: 2019-06-05
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Lowell Tanderup
B: 1936-09-20
D: 2019-05-24
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James Dwyer
B: 1954-06-12
D: 2019-05-07
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Dwyer, James


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1120 E. Main Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: 605-624-2829
Fax: 605-624-2931
E. Howard Coker


Friday, May 4th, 1934 - Friday, January 18th, 2019
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USD Professor Emeritus E. Howard Coker, 84, was released from this earthly life on Friday, January 18, at Sanford Vermillion Care Center.

Earl Howard Coker, Jr. was born to Earl H. and Mary Leedy Coker on May 4, 1934 in the small town of Cottonwood, CA and grew up there. Following graduation from nearby Anderson High School, Howard attended the University of California at Davis, where he played JV football and lived in the student-run firehouse. He then entered a doctoral program in chemistry at Oregon State University (OSU). He soon learned that he had been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Germany, but he was already committed to an assistantship at OSU. His research was in the area of physical chemistry, specifically the solid state physics of crystals.

He had met Marjory George while she was still an undergraduate chemistry major at OSU. They were married on Sept. 4, 1960 in Netarts, OR as both neared the end of graduate school. Howard was soon looking for a college teaching position and was offered an assistant professorship in chemistry at USD. The following September found them pulling a U-Haul trailer into Vermillion with nine days to spare before their first child made his appearance.

Howard began his 45-year career at USD teaching physical chemistry and thermodynamics, served a term as interim department chair, and was appointed Director of the Office of Research in 1983, a position which enriched his academic perspective. After returning to the faculty in 1996, he took a half-time appointment as Director of Compliance, which he held until retirement in 2006. Along the way, he had developed an interest in solutions for critical sedimentation problems in the Missouri River system and co-authored papers on the subject. In 2016, he was honored by the Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition as a "Friend of the River" for his efforts.

Howard was an avid reader of the Bible and of books dealing with science, religion, and philosophy. Neighbors were familiar with the whine of his chainsaw busily trimming trees and cutting firewood. Another favorite activity was navigating the Vermillion and Missouri rivers in his kayak. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Sigma Xi, he served on several boards including the local Alliance church (C&MA), Crown College, W.H. Over Museum, and most recently the state Board of Directors of the United Church of Christ. He managed the W.H. Over gift shop for a time and participated in USD's Oral History Project.

Howard was respected as a mentor and as a person of integrity, faith, thoughtfulness, and wisdom. He was a good listener, ready to encourage those going through difficult times. He loved his children and grandchildren and took pride in their achievements.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Marjory Coker, of Vermillion; children Jon (Kay) Coker of Rochester, MN, Mary Kay Coker of Jefferson City, MO, Steve (Julie) Coker of Lantana, TX, Tim (Shana) of Cedar Rapids, IA; sisters Rose (Al) Gunn of Canby, OR, Mary Coker of Copperopolis, CA, Elda (Andy) of Vallejo, CA; and grandchildren Drew, Brendan (Claire), Erin, Dara, Jackson, Cameron (“CJ”), Emma Grace, and Amelia Charis Coker.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Vermillion United Church of Christ, Congregational.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Friends of the W.H. Over Museum, Amnesty International, or the Friends of the Missouri National Recreational River.
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Service Details

  • Service

    Saturday, January 26th, 2019 | 7:30pm
    Saturday, January 26th, 2019 7:30pm
    United Church of Christ
    226 East Main St.
    VERMILLION, SD 57069
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    Pastor Steve Miller
  • Reception

    United Church of Christ (Vermillion)
    226 East Main St.
    VERMILLION, SD 57069
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


We encourage you to share your most beloved memories of Howard here, so that the family and other loved ones can always see it. You can upload cherished photographs, or share your favorite stories, and can even comment on those shared by others.

Private Condolence

Royce Engstrom

Posted at 11:44am
Dear Marj and family,
I am sorry I couldn't make the service for Howard, but I want to share some memories. I first met Howard when he picked me up from the airport to interview at USD in 1979. We became good friends and colleagues from then on, and I have tremendous respect for his thoughtfulness and insight. We worked together in so many areas. Howard was one of the key people in getting South Dakota into EPSCoR and he did so much to help develop research at USD and in the whole state of SD. We spent many hours together talking about research and the research office at USD. He was the one with the early insight into what USD could become, and he worked tirelessly to move us in that direction. Howard also loved to do and talk about his own research, and he was a lover of knowledge and good experimentation. I always enjoyed his thoughtfulness and his optimistic view of life. We also spent some great time together in a canoe, on the Missouri or Vermillion River. I especially remember a wonderful canoe trip from Pickstown to Springfield. Howard was a great colleague in so many ways, he loved his family, and I am grateful for his many years of mentorship and friendship. I wish him well on his next journey. Take care,
Royce Engstrom

David S. Day

Posted at 09:05pm
Dear Family of Howard Coker, Howard was an exemplary scholar, teacher and public servant. He befriended me in 1983, especially in the Phi Beta Kappa activities and, later, the Research Committee. He was an excellent role model of the classic University Professor. Please accept our condolences. We will all miss his leadership and contributions.
Yours truly, For the Day Family, David S. Day

Galen Kryger

Posted at 09:18pm
I am sorry to here of the passing of your dad Jon. Blessings and prayers to the entire Coker family.

Galen Kryger

Eileen Bottolfson

Posted at 09:18am
My heartfelt sympathy goes out to you, Marjory, and to your family. I remember with fondness the short years we lived as neighbors on James Street. Those were busy times with our young families. May the Lord surround you and yours with his comfort and love at this time.
Eileen Bottolfson

Marlys & Tony Solbach

Posted at 12:47am
Dear Marj & Family, We were very saddened to hear of Howard's passing. Please accept our sympathies. We respected him for his knowledge, kindness, friendliness & quiet spirit. With love, Marlys & Tony Solbach

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