1985: Thousands of Coats High former graduates meet

Posted 8/21/20

Paul Dickson, in his book “From Elvis to E-Mail,” shared on Aug. 2, 1985, that the bankrupt Manville Corporation offered $2.5 billion to settle some 16,500 lawsuits seeking compensation for …

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1985: Thousands of Coats High former graduates meet


Paul Dickson, in his book “From Elvis to E-Mail,” shared on Aug. 2, 1985, that the bankrupt Manville Corporation offered $2.5 billion to settle some 16,500 lawsuits seeking compensation for asbestos-related health complaints. This was the largest settlement ever offered by a U.S. company in health-related complaints.

A second date, Aug. 8, 1985, which is recorded into history, deals with Irangate. On that date, President Ronald Reagan either did or didn’t give permission for arms to be secretly shipped to Iran. “It is possible to forget,” the president said to reporters in 1987. He asked, “Everyone who can remember what they were doing in February 1987, raise your hand.” What actually took place on this date becomes an elusive key to the Irangate incident (page 280).

May 17-19, 1985, are dates that marked the history of the closing of the Coats High School with a celebratory event like none ever held before at Coats High School. Thousands of former graduates of that small rural school would return to reconnect with old classmates, friends, teachers and several principals.

In less than a year, Marie Salmon, her photography students and a group of dedicated community folks pulled off a weekend unparallel before that event. Class representatives from all classes from 1925 to 1985 helped to locate members of their classes to share what was being planned for the weekend. Returned information was recorded and used to compile a list of graduates, addresses, spouses, children and occupations of former students for the “Together We Leave” book. It was a means to get reserved tickets for food and entertainment, book orders, tent setups and parade participants.

Dozens of unknown folks to this writer were instrumental to the success of this event; however, I do know that those listed who served on the Coats Reunion Project Governing Board were Director Marie Salmon, Chairman Carsie K. Denning, Vice Chairman M.O. Phillips, Secretary Mary Lee Denning, Committee members Becky Adams, Godfrey Beasley, Joy Coats, Don Ennis, Warren Ennis, Gerald Hayes, Mack Hudson, Ted Penny, Robert Pleasant, Billy Pope, H.L. Sorrell, Michael Stephenson, Eugene Stewart, Joe Tart, H.A. Turlington and Danny West (Sorrell, Gayle, “Together We Leave,” p. iv-v).

Florence Adams was having a celebration of another sort. She was enjoying her 90th birthday, hosted by her four daughters, Mae Whittington, Mabel Ennis, Marie King and Lovie Dorman (The Daily Record, May 14, 1985).

Barbara Gardner was president of the Harnett County Association of Educational Personnel when she named Brenda Blalock, principal of Buies Creek School, as the “Boss of the Year.” Elsewhere, Mrs. Albert Grimes, 79, of Route One, Coats, had died. She was survived by a son, Carl Grimes; two daughters, Evelyn Watkins and Joyce Panchisin; three sisters, Essie Goodman, Elizabeth Stephenson and Betty Wilburn.

The Coats Bloodmobile netted 39 pints of blood. Donors were Dianne G. Avery, Sylvia A. Faircloth, Jennie L. Gregory, Liza Holland, Emma Jo Knox, Michael Parham, Donald and Starr Pope, Judy Taylor and Emma G. Walden. Were any of these donors connected to the Pope’s Distributing Company?

I do know that some students were also donors, Sherri L . Addison, Dorethea F. Garris, Wendy J. Gregory, Anita L. Matthews, Karen M. Neighbors, Gina R. Parrish, Foy A. Pope and Lisa Stephenson.

Also giving blood were Delwin Forrest Jr., Betty W. Honeycutt, Lillian C. Bowden, Amy W. Brown, Julius F. Cashwell Jr., Charles A. Coats, Nelson D. Currin, Harry C. Denton, Nora Cole, Elaine M. Dykes, James D. Eason, Domini Ennis, Roderick B. Ennis, Thomas O. Ennis, Carter Dan Greider, Diane B. Jones, Norwood E. Jones, Linda L. King, Linda C. Matthews, Lanita C. Matthews, Linda Sue Penny, James L. Pleasant, Gail S. Pope, Angela P. Stone, Eunice Stokes and Jenny L. Young (The Daily Record, May 15, 1985).

Who can name all the teachers who taught them while attending grade school? What about college professors? Surely those who attended Coats School during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s will remember Ruth Bryan. She was an amazing and dedicated English teacher in the seventh grade. Ruth Bryan was installed as the new president of the Harnett County unit of the North Carolina Association of Educators (The Daily Record, May 20, 1985).

Ruth drove in from Fayetteville and was always punctual for work. She was small in stature but a giant in the classroom. All her students were afforded the best instruction possible. Ruth was a true example of a godly woman.

Death has harvested so many of our family and friends this year. Many of them had expressed an interest in our Coats Museum.

Dr. James T. Parker, our family dentist since he came to Benson, was more than a dentist to our family. He was an encourager to both our children and at most appointments he asked about the museum and even shared a copy of rare document with the museum.

Thank you Ralph and Lorena Denning and H.L for adding Joe Tart’s name to the Coats Museum Memorials list. Our hearts ache for Joe’s family.


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