Lora, named in honor of her grandmother, was the oldest of four children and was born in Piqua, Ohio, on Sept. 5, 1924.
Growing up during the Great Depression, her parents moved frequently, from Ohio to Indiana, then Illinois, finally settling in Cameron, W.Va. Times were hard back then: regular meals, heat, indoor plumbing, medicine, etc., were frequently unavailable. On top of all that, Lora was physically handicapped, but she just did not know it.
Lora found out early on that she loved education and reading. She was an honor graduate from Cameron High School and managed to read every single book in the school library. She left Cameron for the last time in 1943 at age 18, with all she owned in one tiny suitcase, and took the train to Washington, D.C., to help the country fight and win World War II.
Shortly after arriving in Washington, a well-meaning government clerk “corrected” the spelling of her name from Lora to Laura. With the war effort going full speed and the accompanying hectic pace in Washington, undoing this minor administrative matter was not to be. As such, over her mother’s objection, she became Laura forevermore.
Before being permitted to start work for the Navy Department, Laura had to prove to a government official she could climb stairs and board a bus. It was the first time she learned she was “handicapped.” In fact, she had to ask what the word meant. Over the years, her handicap would cost her several jobs, promotions and transfers as it was legal to discriminate back then, but it never stopped her or even slowed her down.
In 1948, after a three-year courtship, she married a young Navy man in Annapolis, Md. After being told by two doctors she would never have children, she bore and raised two sons, all the while continuing to work off and on for the government.
Moving from Washington, D.C., to the then distant suburbs of Springfield, Va., she served as a den mother, team mother, Camp Highroad Methodist Church counselor, National Park Service volunteer, Garden Club president and in many other community positions.
Later in life, she volunteered at a Suicide and Crisis Prevention Center, always taking the midnight shift, the busiest time. She also walked the streets of Washington, D.C., handing out food to the homeless, and always kept one-dollar bills in her pocket to hand out to those in need. When she would see a homeless individual without shoes, she would ask what size they wore, buy a pair of shoes and socks that night after work and bring them to the person on her way into work the next day.
Laura retired from the government in 1989 after nearly 39 years of faithful service. The very next day, she resumed work as a civilian helping coordinate public and private business ventures between the U.S. government and the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Over the years, she traveled the world, visited countless countries, dined in the palaces of kings and princes, and even traveled on the president’s backup aircraft.
In 1999, at the age of 74, Laura retired again. For health reasons, she relocated from Alexandria, Va., to Jacksonville, Fla., and finally to St. Marys. While she could then no longer help the homeless in person, or work a crisis help-line, she replaced those efforts right up to the very end by writing countless checks to charities around the world. Laura never met a charity she did not like, and she absolutely never let an opportunity to do good get away undone.
Laura was a member of the United Methodist Church and a truly remarkable, kind and generous person in so many ways. While many will miss her tremendously, her spirit will live on in the countless subordinates and colleagues she mentored and helped, the family and friends she inspired and those whom she lifted up and dusted off as she went through life.
Laura is survived by her former husband, Patrick A. Desmond of Henderson, Nev.; sons, Patrick C. Desmond of Viera, Fla., and Michael D. Desmond of St. Marys; her cousin, Lora Jean Coe Brown of Wheeling, W.Va.; nieces, Barbara B. Bosworth Purrington of Fair Oak, Calif., Bonnie C. Coe Holmes of Charleston, W.Va., Holly N. Coe Halahan of Pittsburg, Pa., and Judith A. Hawes of Parkersburg, W.Va.; nephew, Emmett E. Bosworth Jr. of Auburn, Calif.; three grandchildren, Julie M. Desmond Daily, Jamie M. Desmond and Andrew M. Desmond; and five great-grandchildren, Reagan, Kaelin, Connor, Leigha and Ireland Daily.
She was preceded in death by her parents, William Wiley Coe Sr. and Eunice Isbin Drummond Coe; her brother, William W. Coe Jr.; her sisters, Doris J. Coe Carney, Virginia B. Coe Hawes and Nellie L. Coe Bosworth Lappert; brother-in-law, Eugene F. Carney; sister-in-law, Mildred K. Bon Coe; and grandson, Patrick W. Desmond.
If so desired, in lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to The City Rescue Mission, 426 S. McDuff Ave., Jacksonville, Fla. 32254.
Laura will be interred at the Greenwood Cemetery in Wheeling, W.Va., at a later date.