We’re saddened to report that one of our first business mentors has passed away – Larry Coffman, 84, died Aug. 26, 2021.
Coffman was a mentor to Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer, and in 2007-08 helped inspire him to focus on his then-hobby “hyperlocal website” business, which has since grown from one to seven, and is managed by Scott and his wife Theresa as their full-time jobs.
Schaefer first met Coffman when he was a Writer/Associate Producer at KING-TV’s local comedy show “Almost Live!” in the late 1980s. Schaefer wrote a behind-the-scenes column for Coffman’s “Marketing” magazine about what it was like working on the historic, multiple Emmy-winning local comedy show in Seattle, and they struck up a friendship.
That friendship eventually blossomed into an unexpected mentorship, with Coffman freely sharing business and media advice that he gleaned from a long and successful career. So much so, that they often addressed each other as “Hey Mentor!” and “Hey Protege!”
The biggest moment came during a coffee meeting in late 2007, when after reviewing all his current projects, Coffman did not hesitate to tell Schaefer to “drop everything else” and focus on the then-new, then-hobby website The B-Town (Burien) Blog, get an office and turn it his full-time gig/business. Schaefer followed Coffman’s words and now, over 13 years later, supports his family through local business advertising and reader support publishing local journalism via South King Media, including The Waterland Blog, which was started in 2008.
“Local news has changed our lives for the better, and it’s all because Larry had the insight to steer me in that direction,” Schaefer said. “Coffman will be missed, and everyone should know how big an influence he was to me and our business. Plus, he was a very fun/funny man to hang out with, and I’m glad he spoke at our 10th anniversary party in 2017.”
Coffman always had a smile or funny insight into media, journalism, marketing, life or golf to share, along with true charisma. He was a likable, helpful guy.
“Every memory I have about him is filled with laughter, sage advice, inspiration, joyous laughter and a love of life,” Schaefer added. “My thoughts are with Coffman’s family and friends at this time. Rest in Peace Larry. You – the original ‘Marketing Immortal’ will be missed!”
Learn more and read some tributes to Coffman at http://marketingnw.com/remembering-larry-coffman/.
Here’s Coffman obituary:
Larry Lee Coffman, 84
Larry Lee Coffman, 84, of Kirkland, Washington, passed away peacefully at home on Thursday, August 26, 2021 with his family by his side. He was born in Bowling Green, Ohio to Ernest Ralph and Joyce Whitehead Coffman on May 25, 1937 and soon after the family later moved to Aberdeen, Maryland.
Larry, an outstanding member of the Aberdeen High School Class of 1955, first returned to his birthplace of Bowling Green, Ohio, to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University, where he was editor of the newspaper his senior year. Following two years in the military as an armor officer in Germany, he earned a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
Larry Coffman heeded Horace Greeley’s advice to “Go West Young Man”—specifically to Seattle, where he left an indelible imprint through three separate careers over more than five decades.
Larry began his first career—in journalism—with the Associated Press in Albany, NY, but after just a year, he accepted a job as editor of a weekly newspaper in the Seattle suburb of Auburn in 1964. In 1966, he was named the city’s Young Man of the Year and soon afterward was hired to open the first suburban bureau of The Seattle Times. He, thus, completed the “hat trick” in his journalism career by working for a wire service, a weekly, and a daily newspaper.
In 1968, Larry began his second career—in the public sector— when he was hired as the first employee of the new Regional Transit Authority. There, he managed the 1972 election that created the Metro Transit bus system that twice was named the Best in North America. He also managed two other successful elections—to increase funding for the Metro bus system and to raise gas tax funds to complete Interstate-90 into Seattle.
In 1986, he undertook his third career—as an entrepreneur—when he left Metro to launch MARKETING, a monthly publication for the local marketing communications industry—including advertising, public relations, creative arts, graphic arts, traditional media, and digital media. The enterprise grew to include an annual resource guide, a yearly awards competition and event and a website—all earning Larry recognition as the “voice of the marcomm industry in Seattle.” Sales from all of these activities totaled more than $8 million over three-plus decades, all sold by only one person—Larry Coffman.
And he either wrote or procured all the editorial content for his newspaper and website.
Some of Larry’s many accolades include the Aberdeen High School Hall of Fame, the Bowling Green State University Journalism Hall of Fame in 1997, induction into the MARKETING IMMORTALS pantheon in Seattle in 2017 and his most prized award, the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Seattle Silver Medal award for lifetime achievement named in his honor in 2021.
Besides work, Larry’s other great passion was golf. One of his proudest golf accomplishments was shooting his age at 80 at Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course.
Larry was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph and Joyce Coffman. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Margaretha van der Heyden Coffman, daughter Melissa Vail Coffman and her husband Scott Book, sister Carole Ruhland, niece Natalie Ruhland, and nephew Sean Ruhland.
At Larry’s request, there will be no funeral service, but his family and friends plan on scattering his ashes around the country in places he loved…at a couple of Washington golf courses, in his hometown of Aberdeen, Maryland and at the Coffman family plot outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia. His grandfather, grandmother, aunt, mother and father are there and he would want to be there too.
All of the above words are just some of the facts and details of his amazing life. What must also be noted is how much he loved people and how very much they loved him. Larry Coffman was one in a million, a glorious, guileless, gentle man. His legacy will be carried forward by his daughter Melissa, his son-in-law Scott and all whose lives he touched. The man who created the MARKETING IMMORTALS pantheon will, in a very real sense, be immortal himself. Never to be forgotten. Never.
Please consider making a donation in his name to your favorite charity.