Friends remember ‘Poo’ Coker as a leader and mentor
As an elementary school principal in the Independence School District, Patty Schumacher said if she ever wanted to send a bulk notice she would have Roberta Coker checked out first.
Coker, better known to friends by her nickname “Poo”, was director of community relations for ISD, and Schumacher later became assistant superintendent.
“When I came to the district in 1988, she was one of the first from headquarters to offer me her help. I had to rely on their great time for processing, ”said Schumacher. “She was quite a writer and an incredible proofreader, whenever I sent something through the newsletter, I let Poo edit it. We stayed friends after working there. ”
“She was a loyal friend, mentor, and class number.”
Several friends used the same words to describe Coker, a longtime ombudsman in Independence who died late Sunday at the age of 80. She leaves behind a daughter, son and two granddaughters, among others, and a public celebration of life is planned later. Although the “h” was falling off somehow, her nickname came from a childhood love of Winnie the Pooh characters.
In addition to her 29 years in the school district helping organize several bond and tax collection campaigns, Coker was the second woman on the board of directors of the Independence Chamber of Commerce and the first female president of the Independence Rotary Association. She served on the board of directors of the organization now known as the Health Forward Foundation, served on several other boards, and was the first Citizen of the Year of Independence for the Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s Toast to Our Towns in 1996.
In 2005, she was inducted into the Raytown Schools Alumni Hall of Fame with first grade. A few years later she helped Independence obtain national accreditation for the Palmer Senior Center.
“She looked after the teacher of the year, helped put together the applications for the state teacher of the year and the administration,” said Schumacher. “She would help you get better and she always wanted you to be in the spotlight. It was never about her. ”
“She’s never met a stranger, but I think she knew everyone. I went to places and she introduced me to everyone and they knew her. If you think of a class act, this is it. It was put together, always ready to help you be the best you can be. ”
Another longtime friend from ISD days, Judy Forrester, added, “She was always that little dynamo working in the room.”
Donna Pittman called it a “little ball of fire”.
“She was here and there and everywhere,” said Pittman. “She worked very hard for the community and deserves credit for everything she has done.”
“She was always so lively and energetic,” said Sharon Williams, a friend Coker first met through the Junior Service League. “Just a great, loyal friend who was always behind you. She has always seen the best in people and got the best out of people. ”
In 1999, Coker took over the then weekly society column from The Examiner and for five years succeeded Sue Gentry “The Local Gentry” with “The News at Poo Corner”. When The Examiner began honoring Women of Distinction in 2016, Coker was a first class member and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
“I did what I did because I loved it,” Coker was quoted as saying after receiving this award, “and I hope that spreads beyond this room.”