Cover photo for Eugene Lester Coyer's Obituary
1927 Eugene 2023

Eugene Lester Coyer

August 12, 1927 — April 16, 2023

Orr, MN

 

Eugene “Gene” Coyer nobly said farewell Sunday, April 16th, dying peacefully at home in his sleep. 
 
Always gracious, ever generous, and sometimes humble to a fault, he would not have wanted this much fanfare or praise.  Tough!  EL Coyer was a great man, endowed with an optimism all who met him admired, and a ticklish effervescence everybody found irresistible.  Respected as a leader of men, cherished as a brother, son, father, grandfather, and great grandfather, Dad left a legacy of dignity, hope, love, and can-do few people equal.
 
As a husband Gene asked much and gave much, and out of the giving and the asking, wove in life with his wife, Delores (Terska) Coyer, a beautiful woolen cloak, brightly colored and patterned, with such strength and durability it could not to be torn by death.  And so, he is reunited with her now, eternally.  Mom, we did our absolute best while you were gone.  The ball’s back in your court now.
 
His surviving children remain testament to that family bond.  Gene fathered two daughters, June (Jim) Guertin and Conith (John) Mackner, and two sons, Gary (Lori) Coyer and Daniel Coyer, each raised to have joy in each other. Dad nurtured so selflessly, so cheerfully, until his dying days.  There had been the sound of laughter, nicknames, encouragement, the radio at breakfast, an occasional bugle from his trumpet, lots jokes, and a wholesome tranquility.  Dad gave us the freedom to play, to learn, to fail, to succeed – and perhaps the best playground in the county!
 
Born to Lester Chester “LC” Coyer and Orilla (Bathke) Coyer, Gene grew up in Mankato, MN and graduated from Mankato High School in 1945.  He enjoyed a lovingly crafted, and somewhat privileged childhood, if not just a bit mischievous. His lifelong best friend and brother Martin “Al,” a year to-the-date younger, might have had something to do with this, but who’s telling?  Surprisingly, his grade school years were marked with average grades, and he received even poorer marks for deportment. His father was known to pay for all broken windows made by fly or foul balls in the neighborhood, no questions asked.  However, in line with the Gene we know, and the way in which we saw him approach things, his early performance made a 180 turn, and the discipline he applied during his adolescence took root and blossomed by early manhood.
 
By the time Gene graduated from high school, he had earned Eagle Scout, was a crack shot and fisherman, was a licensed pilot, sat 1st trumpet in the band, and was elected president of his senior class – which earned him the nickname “The General.”  In many ways Gene was on his way to becoming a classic American sportsman and a self-taught renaissance man – which in many ways set the pattern for the rest of his life.
 
Mathematically inclined, well read in poetry, some classics, competent in the physical world, with an ability to illustrate and sculpt, able to teach himself new skills, a methodical record keeper, ever curious, disciplined, and creative, with the wit of a child, and the wisdom of an old man, there would be few goals in life Gene set his mind to he wouldn’t do well at.
 
After graduation in 1945, Gene enlisted in the US Navy where he became a Naval Aviator, training at Cornell University, and Pensacola Naval Air Station under the V12 program.  He loved those days of high adventure and high calling.  He was proud of his duty, stayed friends with his fellow pilots in life, and happily took role call on his Honor Flight as a WWII veteran and member of “The Greatest Generation.”
 
EL Coyer remained a staunch patriot to the end. He loved the great American military marches of John Philip Sousa. He always enjoyed a parade, and he tried to always catch some fireworks. The sousaphone was his favorite horn, and one time mom caught us all marching around the dining room table banging pots and pans with Dad as our parade marshal!  He could be a hoot!  A band-man in his own right he was a volunteer bugler for the VFW and a devoted Lawrence Welk fan.
 
The end of the war brought an end to Gene’s Navy enlistment, and when discharged, he attended University of Minnesota for a degree from the College of Forestry.  He worked summers for the US Forest Service in Oregon, Idaho and elsewhere.  He was marred by the loss of several classmates who smoke jumped into the Montana Mann Gulch fire in ’49, got cutoff and perished trying to outrun the racing fire uphill. Dad graduated with distinction and by now knew the woods were his touchstone and a career in forest management was a perfect fit.
 
Gene spent the next 20 years managing forests in a variety of assignments out West and Minnesota, where he eventually met his bride and settled.  He first built a garage, where they lived for 3 years. How they managed 3 kids in diapers, hauling water from town, while completing the house in his off hours is a wonder.  Untold challenges befell them, he dug a basement by hand, twice, due to an unfortunate cave in, but got it done with the help of his brother Al and dad. And the well was way, way deep and cost a pretty penny, but it turned out to be artesian.
 
Ultimately, they made it through and enjoyed their idyllic, though modest life, in Orr for 10 years until a corporate downsizing at Diamond Match forced him to re-invent himself.  And re-invent he did!  Relocating to Grand Rapids MN he had now become the Outdoor Superintendent of Sugar Hills Ski Area where he quickly applied himself and prototyped new methods in snow-making technologies, so ground-breaking that when tuned and fabricated at scale, easily won national competitions resulting in invitations to make snow for the US Olympic team in Aspen Colorado where, in 1968, Billy Kidd, the great American alpine hope, coached by Bob Beattie, was preparing to compete in Grenoble against Jean-Claude Killy, without any snow, at a time when the world believed the best could only be found in the countries of Europe. Well Dad solved their snow problem for them and the US Ski Team went on to win medals and to forever establish themselves as an competitor to be reckoned with.  Who’d have imagined, Gene Coyer, with a degree in forestry from the University of Minnesota, would end up playing a vital role in when and how the US rose to prominence in alpine skiing?  Where would the Maher twins, or Lindsey Vonn, or Mikaela Shiffrin be today if that snow had not been made?  
 
EL Coyer continued to innovate, teach himself new things, and develop new capabilities, surveying and dozing miles of cross-country ski trails on his D-6 Cat “Pussy Galore” that to this day remain some of the most enjoyed in Northern Minnesota.  Later in his career Gene led a team of “Moose Mountain Men” to survey and clear a run with the most vertical in the state at Lutsen Mountains – a topography which was so steep and rugged the chairlift footings were poured, and towers lifted and placed by helicopter.
 
Always an armchair historian with a steel trap memory, Gene was literate in American history from Plymouth Rock through WWII.  His knowledge of local history was also impressive. Throughout his life he had a passion for the West and was fascinated by Native American cultures. He loved the art of CM Russell, the poetry of Longfellow, Thoreau, Service, and Frost.  He read everything Ambrose wrote.  His early years working in the West always drew him back. He honeymooned at Yellowstone. He visited Little Bighorn many times and liked to say, “this is where Custer got his Arrow shirt.” He said it every time.  He loved to visit Bozeman Pass where Sacajawea, the young Shoshone, led the Core of Discovery over an “old buffalo trail” on their way to the Pacific.  He often lost himself while gazing at the Bridgers, pondering the deeper trends of history, and spotting elk.
 
Gene had a sweet tooth, every cookie was his friend, especially the sugar cookie.  He taught himself to cook after mom passed and developed a fine, small repertoire of dishes he loved to share, like “Watch Out They’re Wild - Blueberry Pie” and “Gene’s Famous Boston Baked Beans.”  He was a gifted illustrator and sculptor, and his collection of spearing decoys became quite the exhibit. In his workshop, a box of wooden duck decoy parts, in various stages of completion, demonstrate his process and how the transformation from wooden block into swimming, life-like mallards and bluebills occurred. For now, they’ll remain uncompleted.
 
Eugene is survived by his children; Gary (Lori) Coyer, June (Jim) Guertin, Conith (John) Mackner and Daniel Coyer, brother; Martin Coyer, four grandkids and four great grandkids. He is preceded in death by his parents; Lester and Orilla (Bathke) Coyer, his wife; Delores and brother; Burton Coyer. Special thanks to his friends and neighbors for all their help in recent years. 
 
Gene will be memorialized with military honors, on Monday, May 1st, the date of his wife’s death, at 11:00 am at Calvary Lutheran Church, Orr, MN where Gene and Delores were married 69 years ago.
 
 
There will be an evening visitation held on Sunday, April 30, 2023 from 5 to 7PM at the Dougherty Funeral Home in Hibbing, MN.  Visitation will continue one hour prior to the service on Monday beginning at 10AM at Calvary Church. This funeral will be livestreamed through the Churches Youtube Channel, please log in to Youtube, by entering; calvaryluthernyt.   In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Calvary Lutheran Church in Orr.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Eugene Lester Coyer, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Sunday, April 30, 2023

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

Dougherty Funeral Home Hibbing

2615 1st Ave, Hibbing, MN 55746

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Visitation

Monday, May 1, 2023

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

Calvary Lutheran Church

10700 Orr-Buyck Rd, Orr, MN 55771

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Memorial Service

Monday, May 1, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

Calvary Lutheran Church

10700 Orr-Buyck Rd, Orr, MN 55771

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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