Lonny Gene Coots
Lonny Gene Coots was born in the small town of Augusta, Kansas on August 14, 1944, to Leon and Ruby Coots. Both of his parents worked, and they lived humbly in a wooden house surrounded by woodlands and streams. There his father taught him to hunt and to fish augmenting their provisions and income. For many years, a stray dog accompanied Lonny while he provided for the family. Fearful that a pet might become a burden, Leon did not permit Lonny to name the dog. Nevertheless, he trained the faithful companion to retrieve, to flush game and to still on command. In the end, his father turned a blind eye when he christened the dog ‘Boy'. Boy was Lonny's friend in the woods and featured frequently in his rare stories of childhood.
Because both of his parents worked either Sunday mornings or Saturday graveyard-shifts, the devout women of the Baptist church took him in. They collected him for Sunday school and worship services, ensuring that he was fed and clean. They brought him into the church family and gave him a second home. Remembering these servants and their love, he credited them with his immovable faith in his Savior, Jesus Christ, and with his love for the church. He recalled his Baptism with awe and wonder and knew the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Lonny's father died when he was in high school, and he proved less disciplined afterwards. As a young man, he was fierce and fearless, and one too many confrontations led the principal to consult with his mother, Ruby. The principal suggested that Lonny join the service, in hopes that the military might provide the authority and discipline he needed after the death of his father.
Lonny enlisted in the Marines before graduating, and he served two tours in Viet Nam. In those far away jungles, his experience in the wilderness paid dividends, and his advice saved fellow foot soldiers who would have otherwise died. Afterwards, he seldom recounted the events of the war, only mentioning the hope he felt upon hearing the steady beat of the blades of helicopters, their life-saving backup intervening when all seemed lost.
He returned to an embittered nation that had little respect for skilled warriors. He was fortunate to marry Pat Shea and they were blessed with twin daughters, Shannon and Khiera. Pat Shea Knoop, Kheira Durga Kortenbout, and Shannon Starr survive him.
Lonny turned to the martial arts, and studied under Gary Swann, eventually becoming a Grandmaster of Chinese Kenpo. He opened his own studio in the early seventies and trained many students. Among his most steadfast friends were pupils Leo Tenner and George Mosson, both eighth-degree black belts. Their friendship endured forty-eight years and a lifetime of stories.
His exposure to explosives in the Armed Forces paved the way for him to become a detonations expert, doing business for mines in Arizona. Contemporaneously, he volunteered as a diver for search and rescue teams, freeing treasures, animals, people and sometimes bodies from reservoirs, canals, culverts and lakes. His time as a volunteer reignited his memories of the drone of the helicopters in Viet Nam, the sound of deliverance for embattled foot soldiers, and he aspired to become a helicopter pilot.
During that time, Lonny pulled an unconscious man from an overturned pick-up, rescuing the endangered from a terrible fate. The National Guard of the State of California awarded him the Medal of Valor for his selflessness. Because of this venerable conduct and with a recommendation from the doctor he saved, the Army Flight School finally accepted him into their ranks. Before his reentry into the military, Lonny married his second wife, Sandra Ann Sanford, and was blessed with two children, Darth Aaron Coots, and Lonique Bechelle Coots. Darth, Lonique and Sandra survive him.
As he did in his previous endeavors, Lonny distinguished himself as a pilot. His growing family followed him to Germany, where he enjoyed his new occupation. He flew helicopters for over fourteen years, and attack helicopters for eight of those years. He was honored to return to the military. He grieved when forced into retirement, prompted by military cuts in the late 1990s.
Thanks to his close companions Kim Mickelson and Frank Lathers, another pilot, he met and fell in love with Beverly Bogle just before his retirement. They were married and by her, he fathered a final son, Lonny Franklin in 2000. Both Lonny Franklin and Beverly survive him.
After moving to New Mexico with his last wife, he built an experimental plane, a helicopter. He hosted and attended numerous fly-ins and traveled with his fellow pilot and dear friend Lee Jones. They traveled to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and flew much of the desert southwest together.
Lonny happily and humbly served the First Presbyterian Church of Hagerman as an Elder. He loved the congregation and didn't miss services.
Lonny's funeral will be held at 1:00pm on Saturday, 24th of November at the First Presbyterian Church of Hagerman, 310 Cambridge Avenue, Hagerman, NM, followed by a graveside memorial at the Hagerman cemetery.
Lonny's pallbearers will be his sons, Darth Aaron Coots, Lonny Franklin Coots, his associates in Kenpo, Leo Tenner and George Mosson, and his comrade Frank Lathers and friend Lee Jones.
Thank you, Lonny, for your service to your country, your friends, your family and to God.