Ashe resident celebrates 102nd birthday

Wil Petty Staff Writer

October 17, 2013

Vera Coykendall, a resident of Ashe County, turned 102 on Monday, Oct. 14.

Born in Rochester, N.Y. in 1911, Coykendall spent her childhood playing games like Kick the Can around town. Also located in Rochester was George Eastman, who was at the time a major philanthropist.

Just like Eastman, who started the Eastman Kodak camera company, Coykendall has given a lot of her time to charity. During World War II, she was with the Red Cross.

“She always volunteered,” said Beth Jones, Coykendall’s daughter. “She would give up her time for everyone else.”

Alongside Red Cross work, Coykendall also donated her time to churches, thrift stores, humane societies and the Girl Scouts.

“She was a Girl Scout leader,” Jones said. “She didn’t believe in being my Girl Scout leader because people show favorites with their own child. So she was everybody else’s girl scout leader.

During her childhood, and early adulthood, she experienced the end of World War I, as well as the Great Depression. Her family got through the Great Depression by renting out room and board to tenants.

“Everybody had to (fend) for themselves” Coykendall said.

Jones said that her mom thinks another depression would change the way people looked at the world.

“If there was another depression, people would get a better sense of taking care of themselves,” Jones said.

During World War II, when volunteering for the Red Cross, she was stationed at Fort Dix, N.J. where she would drive soldiers and officers around the base.

“I drove all during the war,” she said. “There were a lot of male officers who wondered if I could even drive.”

Coykendall said none of those things were fun in her life.

After the war, Coykendall moved to Fort Lauderdale and entered the real estate industry.

“She was quite successful in real estate,” Jones said. “She would buy and sell condominiums on the ocean. For each time she would move, she would fix up something or establish a décor and make a profit.”

Coykendall spent 55 years in the Sunshine state before moving to the High Country in 2005. She had her own apartment and a driver’s license until she was 95 years old.

Now a resident of Forest Ridge Assisted Living in West Jefferson, Coykendall remains a strong-willed, intelligent woman.

“People here seem to care for each other,” she said. “I think I’m going to stay here.”