Genre:

The Anatomy of Public Corruption

OBIT: Marie Coon



The Untimely Suicide of Marie Coon

MARIE WAS THE NORDSTROMS TAILOR WHO
TAILORED SUITS FOR
PETE BENNETT
WHOSE SUITS WERE LOST
WHEN HIS DRY CLEANER COMMITTED SUICIDE


WALNUT CREEK — Marie Coon is an Iraq war casualty. But not in the traditional sense.
Her stepson’s fatal injuries from a sniper attack in Iraq in 2007 ended up causing two deaths — his and hers.
“She was having a hard time dealing with Jimmy’s death,” her husband, Jim Coon said Friday. “She just kept saying how she missed Jimmy.”
On Mother’s Day — after struggling for more than two years to cope with the loss of the young man she loved as her son — Marie committed suicide by locking herself in the cab of a pickup truck at Lake Arrowhead with portable lighted barbecues and a pail of burning coals. She left a note, saying she wanted to be with Jimmy. She was 48.

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“I’m just walking around pretty much in a daze,” said Jim, 51, who moved with his wife about a year ago from Walnut Creek to Paradise in Northern California. “I’m hoping that she’s in heaven. I’m hoping she’s with Jimmy. If she’s not, I hope she’s having a great life wherever she is. I never wanted to see her get hurt.”
Jim said he planned to attend Walnut Creek’s Memorial Day service Monday with his daughter and brother, to honor his son Army Pfc. James Coon and Cpl. Sean Langevin. Both were Walnut Creek soldiers who died in Middle East conflicts.
James, whom his parents called “Jimmy,” was a 22-year-old Las Lomas High graduate who died April 4, 2007, in Iraq. Langevin was a 23-year-old graduate of Ygnacio Valley High who died on patrol in Afghanistan on Nov. 9, 2007.
In the months after James’ death, Marie talked candidly to the Times on several occasions, expressing the highs and lows she felt as she tried to cope with her gaping loss. She was fiercely proud of her son and gratefully elated for the community recognition he received.
This included a public funeral in Civic Park, a memorial plaque at City Hall, a cross on the hillside in Lafayette, an engraved brick at the All Wars Memorial in Danville, a special teams football award in his name at Diablo Valley College, where he played, and the retiring of his No. 90 high school football jersey at Las Lomas.At the other end of the spectrum, though, Marie grappled daily with overwhelming grief.
“I just start to cry for no reason,” she said in the fall of 2007. “My husband calls them ‘the moments.’ He’ll say, ‘Are you having a moment?’ I’ll just say, ‘Yeah,’ and he’ll know what it’s about. I’ve had days where I’ve been reduced to tears only once. But other days, it’s been all day long.”
She joined the ranks of Gold Star Moms when Jimmy died — a sisterhood of mothers who have lost their children in the military. The women supported each other, talking about their grief.
“It doesn’t go in any smooth order where it gets easier,” Marie said tearfully. “All of a sudden, you have a day that’s worse than it was three months ago. You can’t even anticipate what will set you off.”
She smiled as she reminisced about the happiness Jimmy brought into her life, when he was in sixth grade and she was dating his father.
Jimmy’s biological mother died when he was 9 years old, eight years after his parents divorced.
Marie married his father a year later and cherished her role as Jimmy’s mother — watching him grow up, cheering him on at football games and talking to him about the joys and sorrows in his life.
“I just want to see him,” she said longingly. “I just want to talk to him about anything.”
She refused to bury Jimmy, because she didn’t want to leave him behind if she moved away. Jimmy was cremated and the family spread his ashes at Lake Tahoe, after Marie visited clairvoyant Lisa Williams. Marie believed Jimmy told her through the medium that he wanted the lake to be his final resting place. The couple’s marriage deteriorated and Jim said Marie left him in March, after they tried counseling. He filed for divorce, but it was never finalized.
“I think she just pretty much fell out of love for me,” Jim said. “She didn’t have a purpose in life any more. She really loved Jimmy.”
Jim plans to spread Marie’s ashes in Lake Tahoe.
“I’m going to do the same thing as I did with Jimmy,” he said, “so she could be with him.”
Marie’s note said she did not want a memorial service. But, a makeshift memorial has appeared among the crosses in Lafayette.
“RIP Marie Coons,” it says. “Jimmy’s Mother. Died from a broken heart by her own hand.”
Representatives of military family support groups contacted by the Times said they had never heard of a parent committing suicide after the death of a child in war. Yet, Marie’s decision to take her life is a tragic reminder that such a loss creates an emotional ripple effect in the families of soldiers who are killed, leaving wounds that sometimes never heal.
Reach Theresa Harrington at 925-945-4764 or tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com.
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