Paul Madison Coleman

1917 - 2009

Paul Coleman was a music educator who taught in Seventh-day Adventist schools in the Orient and in the Pacific Northwest. He was also a skilled builder who oversaw the construction of the Djakarta Evangelistic Adventist Center in Indonesia, organized maintenance activities at Taipei Adventist Hospital, and oversaw the renovation of Tsen Wan Hospital in Hong Kong, the latter two activities happening after he retired.

Paul was born on a small farm in McMinnville, Oregon on February 19, 1917, the older of two children and the only son of William (Will) Madison and Minnie Iverson Coleman. Both he and his sister, Lois, showed promise in music and began study at an early age. In both instances, their music education was interrupted by the Great Depression.

Paul began playing trumpet when he was eight years old, teaching himself on a hard-blowing cornet from Austria that his father had given him. A year after graduating from McMinnville High School in 1934, he left home to attend Walla Walla College, now University, with $18 in his pocket, a few clothes, and his cornet. Although he had not taken lessons until well into his teens, he was talented and had become proficient enough as a musician to play in WWC ensembles and the Walla Walla Symphony, as well as sing in the college male quartet.

Victor Johnson, WWC college band and orchestra director who also had a music instrument store, took an interest in Coleman and loaned him a trumpet, an improvement over the cornet, but a poor sounding instrument. During a subsequent summer, he found work in a cannery and was able to set aside $50 for the purchase of a better instrument. He later recalled,

I heard about a music dealer and storeowner who had recently retired and still had some instruments in his home. I visited him and was amazed to find a handcrafted Martin trumpet, a top-of-the-line instrument. When the dealer told me he was asking $75 for it, I said, "Well, I guess I will have to work some more." We continued visiting and as I was getting ready to go, the dealer asked, "Have you got $50? If so, boy, you can have it." I played on that instrument for the next 25 years.

From 1939 to 1940, Coleman ran a bakery route in Portland.  He also married Lois Anne Smith, and then returned to WWC in 1941.  He worked from 1942 to 1944 at the Naval Ship Repair facility in Bremerton, Washington and then taught at Mt. Ellis Academy for a year before returning to WWC, where he completed a B.S. in biology at in 1946.

For the next seven years, he taught in Singapore before returning to the States in 1953 for a music teaching position at Auburn Academy, near Seattle, Washington. Although now 36, he decided to take lessons on the flute and clarinet, studying with the principal chairs in the Seattle Symphony.

After seven years at AA, Coleman took a position at Portland Union Academy, now Portland Adventist Academy, in order to help a member of the family who was having difficulty at that time. A year later he traveled to Indonesia, where he oversaw the construction of the Djakarta Evangelistic Adventist Center. After three and a half years there, he returned to the States with his family when political problems placed them in danger.

From 1965 to 1970 he taught music at Laurelwood Academy, near Portland, Oregon. During that time he organized a woodwind ensemble using his four sons, whom he had taught to play clarinet, as its nucleus. The ensemble became widely known throughout the Northwest for both its facility and musicianship. During this time they released Themes in Wood, a highly successful and popular record.

All four of his sons would eventually play in the Walla Walla Symphony, as their father had when he was a college student. His twin sons, Donald and Ronald, played in the orchestra as teenagers in the 1970s, and then again in the early 2000s. Seven members of the Coleman family, including Paul's sister Lois and her daughter, Janice, played in the Walla Walla Symphony, the largest number of musicians from one family to play in that ensemble in its first hundred years. Ronald presently serves as an adjunct instructor in clarinet at WWC.

In 1970 Coleman was invited to be assistant plant manager at WWC, a position he held until his retirement in 1978. At that time he moved to a farm near Gresham, Oregon. In 1988 he traveled overseas to supervise maintenance activities at Taipei Adventist Hospital and, in the following year, oversaw the renovation of Tsuen Wan Hospital in Hong Kong.

Annie suffered a stroke in 1998 and was bedridden until her death five years later, on October 2, 2003, at age 85. Paul was an active musician until his late eighties, organizing a brass quintet in 1995 and often performing in it until 2005. He was residing in Walla Walla at the time of his death on March 5, 2009, at age 92. 


Sources: Interview with Paul Coleman in 2008 and interviews with Donald and Ronald Coleman in 2007; Obituary in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin, 19 March 2009; personal Knowledge. See biographies for Donald and Ronald Coleman and Lois Coleman Hall for more information about the Coleman family.

Memories of Paul Coleman

Written by the Coleman boys, Donald, Ronald, and Lewis,

 and his sister, Lois Hall

Paul Coleman was born near Newberg, Oregon, on February 19, 1917, to Minnie Iverson-Coleman and William (‘Will’) Madison Coleman.  Will was a dairy farmer and teacher. Minnie was a former teacher and housewife.  When he was six years old his sister, Lois, was born.

In the early 1920s the Coleman’s purchased a wheat farm of about 35 acres near McMinnville, Oregon.  There were no buildings on the land, so Will built a chicken house and shop which became their temporary home.  Next he built a three-story barn to house the two cows and horses they purchased.  They planted fruit and nut trees and a large garden.  Will taught at the country school - so Paul's first teacher was his father. (Paul used to ride his horse to school several miles away). In between doing chores and teaching, Will built a three-bedroom house, which is still occupied today. 

They moved in before it was finished, but it was a great improvement over the chicken house.  Paul loved living in the country, climbing the huge oak trees, riding the horse, fishing, and swimming in the creek.  He wasn't so fond of weeding the garden and tending chickens.

The difficult depression years were spent on this farm. The family survived by canning food that they grew. They also canned the meat from one cow that they slaughtered each year. The milk and eggs that they did not need were sold for cash. With careful planning there was just enough money to buy one set of new clothes and shoes for each family member each year. For Paul this was just one new pair of coveralls and one pair of shoes each year.

When Paul was about fifteen he saw his dad's cornet and tried to play it.  His mother had tried to teach him piano, but he wanted to play a horn.  He taught himself to play the old antique instrument, which was very hard to blow.  When he was sixteen he was invited to join the city band, led by the town's justice of the peace.  He was introduced to Sousa marches and other military band music.  He was even paid to march in the Fourth of July parade. That fall he brought home an alto horn and taught his sister to play it. She was very thrilled and became the youngest member of the band.

It was about this time that Paul’s father purchased their first automobile, a Ford Model ‘T’.  Paul also saw his first airplane at this time, a ‘barnstormer’ stunt flier that came to the McMinnville airport to put on a show and sell rides.

Paul was baptized in a creek near the McMinnville Seventh-day Adventist Church. He attended McMinnville High School, where he graduated in 1934. He yearned to attend a Christian school where he could participate in social activities outside of the Sabbath hours. (The public schools held all of their social activities and football games on Friday nights and Sabbaths.)

He was visited by a teacher from WWC who urged him to go to Walla Walla College.  His father wanted him to stay home, help him on the farm and attend Linfield College. But Paul was tired of having to choose between having a good time and listening to his conscience. At the age of eighteen he made the tough decision to leave home and make his own way. (It was to be seventy long years before he returned to visit that house again.)

Paul arrived at the train station in Walla Walla (the building still exists on 2nd Avenue) in 1935 with an old metal suitcase, ten dollars and his horn.  He needed a job badly.  When he arrived at WWC, he saw a crew pouring concrete and asked the supervisor for a job. He was hired on the spot and helped pour the original sidewalk in front of the administration building. He then registered for school, initially as a teaching major.

Paul scrimped and saved, and by the second quarter he was able to buy a trumpet.  This became his joy because it was easy to blow. He made good progress and was soon playing in the band and orchestra. It wasn't long before he found another trumpet player and a trombonist and formed a trio.  Many of their pieces were arranged by his sister, Lois. He also sang in the men’s quartet with Eugene Winters, Ken Fleck, and Ralph Whitehouse.

In 1937 the band went on a "booster trip" and played a concert at Columbia Academy.  He met his future wife briefly as he was hurrying to get in place for the performance. Her name was Lois Annie Smith.  He barely noticed her. But Annie and her friend noticed him. Annie’s friend told her that when she got to WWC she was going to ‘set her hat’ for him. Annie jokingly said, "Tough luck. I’m going to be there a year before you are!"

In 1938 Annie attended WWC. She and Paul ended up in the same science class together, she as a pre-med student and he as a biology major.  Annie often wore a small Scottie dog pin and Paul dubbed her ‘Scottie’. (It was a name that was to stick for the rest of her life).

Paul had been dating a girl named Margie and he used to take his trumpet over to the dorm and from under her window played "Margie, I'm always dreaming of you, Margie."  A friend of Paul’s created quite a stir one night when he stood under Annie’s window and played "I Must See Annie Tonight!"  Lois had always teased Paul about his girlfriends and he took it good naturedly, but when she teased him about Annie, he got mad and Lois got worried. "This is serious," she thought to herself.  Before the school year was over, Paul and Annie were engaged. 

Like many others in those days Paul had a problem. He owed the college money and didn't have enough income to support a wife.  There were no such things as school loans. He decided to stay out a year and work. Annie's parents invited him to live at their house.  His future father-in-law loaned him the money to purchase a bakery route and a delivery van. (Annie later revealed that her father had said to her, "The best way to get to know a man is to wash his clothes and see how long he can hold a job".)

Paul excelled in sales, paid back the loan, and saved money. He apparently earned the approval of Annie’s parents, for he and Annie were married on August 29, 1940, at Annie's parents’ home in Portland, across the street from the old Portland Sanitarium.  Elder J. L. Tucker of the Quiet Hour married them. His sister, Lois, was the maid of honor.  They were to use a cabin of a relative for a honeymoon.  When they arrived at the cabin in the woods, they found that a friend had nailed a substantial barricade down the middle of the bed. Paul put his carpenter skills to work and quickly solved that problem! 

Paul and Annie’s first home was in College Place and was a basement made into a home.  (They called it the "Honey House," as it had been used previously by a bee-keeper.) By this time Paul changed his major to biology, and Annie was taking several classes and working as the secretary of the Business Manager. They didn't have much money, but they were very happy. 

In 1941 Paul’s sister, Lois, also ran out of money and had to stay out of school to work.  So Paul and Annie invited Lois to live with them the last two quarters of the year to help save money. Lois was just the first of many that Paul and Annie would open up their home to and help over the years.

Everything changed on December 7, 1941. The student body was called to a meeting at the old Columbia Auditorium and told of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war.

Paul and Annie moved to Bremerton the next summer, where Paul worked in the Naval Shipyard. They shared an uncompleted house purchased by their friends, George and Margaret Armstrong.  Paul and George worked the night shift, came home and slept for a few hours, then spent the rest of their day building a house – mostly with scrap wood. They also dug a well by hand. They survived harsh winters and the difficult war years in this house, then sold it after the war and shared the profit of their work.

Paul and Annie’s first son, Richard, was born January 2, 1942.

In 1944-45, while he was still a student at WWC, Paul and Annie accepted a call to teach at Mt. Ellis Academy. Paul worked as the assistant farm manager, worked in maintenance, as well as teaching science classes and band. (Somehow he had figured out how to conduct music too!) Annie taught piano, typing, and shorthand.  She also played drum in the band. Imagine their disappointment when, returning from a band trip, they found that their house had caught fire and burned to the ground. They lost virtually everything they owned and spent the remainder of the year living in the girls’ dormitory.

About this time Paul and Annie were asked to consider a call to go to Singapore as missionaries for a six-year term. Paul returned to WWC and finished his degree in 1946, then accepted the call to mission service. Before leaving for Singapore he and Annie were required to attend classes to learn ‘Bahasa,’ the local Malayan language used in Singapore.

Leaving was difficult as Annie was an only child and Paul's mother was dying of breast cancer.  The only way to communicate in those days was by mail. A letter could take weeks to be delivered to or from a foreign country. Leaving home under these circumstances was extremely difficult. Paul knew he would not see his mother again until the resurrection.

After enduring a harrowing, stormy crossing of the Pacific they arrived in Japan, where they were driven from Tokyo to Yokohama. Paul’s recollection of that drive was vivid years later. Due to the recent fire bombings of Tokyo, the only things they saw standing for the entire forty-mile drive were a few smoke stacks.

Paul and Annie arrived in Singapore in 1946, soon after the end of World War II. The Japanese occupiers had burned all the furniture in the hospital, using it for firewood. Paul’s first job was to build all new furniture for the hospital – beds, chairs, and desks. He was given an empty field. With the help of local workmen he built a shop and, using equipment he had purchased and brought on the ship, began building furniture. Once the hospital and school had all the furniture that was needed, Paul continued to run the shop. Taking on commercial jobs in Singapore, he was able to turn the shop into a profit center for the mission.

Most of the workers Paul hired were not Christians, and he had a burden to lead them to Christ. So he came up with a plan. He told them that they could either continue to come to work at the same time and earn a full day’s pay. Or they could come 30 minutes early and attend a class. If they came early they would be paid the extra 30 minutes. Most attended his Bible class, and several were baptized. At least one of these gentlemen, still living in Singapore, stayed in touch with Paul through all the intervening years.

As with all missionaries, Paul and Annie ended up doing a little of everything to help out. On one mission trip they made into the jungles of Borneo Paul ended up sleeping in a Long House (a house only for men and which was decorated all around the ceiling with human skulls taken by headhunters). Annie often told a story later of being fed soup with chicken’s feet in it. She quietly snuck the chicken’s feet to the dogs, as she could not stomach them with mud still showing under the claws!

In 1952 Donald and Ronald were born at the Youngberg Memorial Hospital in Singapore. (Don and Ron currently live in College Place with their wives, Debbie and Cheryl. The twins both work for Continental Airlines).

In 1953 the Coleman family left Singapore and moved to Paul’s new job – teaching music at Auburn Academy.

While teaching at Auburn Academy Paul obtained his master’s degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. He also took formal music conducting lessons from a professional in Seattle during this time.

Paul also taught himself about bee keeping. For years he kept several hives of bees and sold honey (under the label "The Three Bears"). He and Annie would harvest the honey themselves, extract it, and package it.

In 1954 Lewis was born at the Portland Sanitarium. (Lewis and his wife, Cheryl, live near Portland, where he works as a paramedic for American Medical Response).

About this time, unable to play the trumpet any longer due to problems with his teeth, Paul learned to play the flute (studying under the principal flute player for the Seattle Symphony). He and Annie taught all of their sons their love for music, and Paul taught each of them to play the clarinet.

In 1960 Paul and Annie moved to the Portland area to assist Annie’s mother, Catherine (‘Cassie’) after the death of Annie’s father. Paul accepted a position teaching music at Portland Union Academy.

Paul also learned Morse code and obtained his ham radio operator’s license. This was a skill that he was able to put to practical use in the years before telephones and internet became commonplace.

In 1961 Paul and Annie again accepted a call to go to Indonesia where Paul supervised the construction of the Djakarta Evangelistic Center, a five story building which included an auditorium for meetings on the main level. Serving as missionaries requires sacrifices – both personal and financial. One of the disappointments Paul and Annie had to endure during this time was missing their oldest son’s wedding in Portland. Richard and Jean Gingrich were married during Richard’s junior year at WWC. (Richard was a theology major at WWC).

By 1965 the political situation had become very unstable in Indonesia, and the Coleman family moved once again, this time to Laurelwood Academy, where Paul again resumed teaching music.

February 5, 1966 the Coleman’s oldest son Richard, along with his wife Jean, visited Paul, Annie, and the boys at Laurelwood Academy. Richard, who was now a licensed pilot, had flown down with friends to attend a program of the Vienna Choir Boys at Portland Adventist Academy on Saturday night.  At about 4 AM Sunday morning Paul and Annie’s phone rang. It was the FAA, informing them that their son’s airplane had taken off from Troutdale, Oregon, late Saturday night and had never reached Walla Walla.

After several weeks of searching, the rescue efforts were called off. The airplane was eventually found in June of 1967, on Larch Mountain, just a few miles from the point of departure. Richard, Jean, and their good friends, Joe & Cheryl Jensen had all perished. In spite of enduring months of uncertainty, ending in severe disappointment, Paul and Annie’s faith in God remained firm. This experience was, no doubt, one of the bitterest of their lives.

Paul had also learned how to work with metals. And he learned to repair his own cars, rarely taking them to a shop for anything. Paul used his own car as a ‘guinea pig’ to teach his boys how to remove the engine from a car, disassemble it, reassemble it, put it back in the car and get it running again. Somehow, Paul had taught himself to be a ‘jack of all trades’ – and he spent many hours over the years patiently trying to pass on what he had learned to each of his sons.

In 1970 Paul accepted a position as Assistant Plant Service Manager at Walla Walla College, where he worked with one of his best friends, Lester Border, until officially retiring in 1978.

Paul and Annie then moved to the farm that her parents had purchased in 1940.  Paul and Annie purchased part of the old college industrial arts building when it was being demolished.  They disassembled the sections of the building, piece by piece, and salvaged the building materials. They then took two semi truckloads of these materials to the family farm near Portland, where – once again proving his resourcefulness, Paul designed and built a shop and garage using the ‘scrap’ material.

Drawing on the many skills he had developed using metals and wood, Paul started a small business, Custom Fabricators.

Paul and Annie (along with his sister, Lois, whom they invited to live on the farm) enjoyed the farm life, raising a large garden each year in addition to tending to fruit trees and a vineyard. They also grew Noble Firs to sell as Christmas trees each year.

Paul also added on to the farmhouse and built Annie a new kitchen. They did not have the money to buy nice cabinets, so – demonstrating his resourcefulness and patience  - he set to work to make them. He cut down wild cherry trees growing on the farm, found a business willing to cut them into boards for free (in exchange for letting them take pictures of their equipment on his property to be used for advertising brochures), cured the lumber, and built beautiful sold wood cherry cabinets for the entire kitchen. This project took him a couple of years.

Both Paul and Annie remained active in church work after ‘retirement,’ first as members of the Gresham Seventh-day Adventist Church, and then the Sunnyside Church. They spent many hours in church board meetings, served as an elder and deaconess, and helped with many volunteer fundraisers and other church activities.

Overcoming what must have been a deep fear of flying after losing his oldest son in a plane crash, Paul decided to learn to fly. He earned his Private Pilot’s license after he retired and remained current and qualified as a pilot for many years – a ‘hobby’ that Annie, understandably, never learned to enjoy.

Paul never shied away from learning – even in his later years. He learned to use a computer when he was in his 80s.

Retirement didn't kill Paul and Annie’s love for the mission field. During the late 1980s they again accepted mission calls – to serve as SOS (volunteer) missionaries in both Taiwan and Hong Kong. In Taiwan Paul worked with the local staff at the Taipei Adventist Hospital to correct problems with the heating and air conditioning system as well as setting up an effective maintenance program at the hospital.

Annie worked in the office and taught English classes. In Hong Kong Paul supervised the complete renovation of the Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital - floor by floor while the hospital remained open and in use. Annie became involved with Adventist World Radio and became the recording voice for many English stories that were later broadcast.

Paul had always enjoyed tennis. And he did not let his retirement slow him down. He played well until he was in his mid-eighties, winning trophies at the local tennis club where he was a member, often at the expense of opponents who were fifty or more years his junior! In fact, at the age of 88 Paul traveled to Guam and celebrated his birthday by playing tennis with his sons.

In 1998 Paul experienced another tremendous disappointment. Annie, his wife of 58 years, suffered a stroke and remained bedridden for five years before she passed away. Though he spent the remainder of his life dealing with loneliness he rarely complained. His deep, abiding faith in God never wavered. He often consoled himself with his music. And he had a deep yearning to share God’s love and plan of salvation with anyone who would listen.

Paul remained active with his musical talent until his late 80s. He particularly loved the brass instruments. He had purchased a euphonium and learned to play it in his 70s. He organized a quintet, Patriarchal Brass, and performed with the group many times until just a few years ago.

At the age of 89, unable to drive safely any longer and in declining health, Paul move from his farm near Portland to the Wheatland Retirement Center in Walla Walla. He continued to be involved in music, attending many concerts up until just a few weeks before his death. He loved to play chess in his later years, and learned to play quite well. He also continued to garden, raising his last garden in the summer of 2008.

Those of you who knew Paul well will no doubt agree that the following are just some of his greatest attributes: he was honest, God fearing, loved his family deeply, cared very much about others, was patient, and frugal.

To Lois he was a brother. To Don, Ron, and Lewie he was “dad.” To thirteen others he was ‘Grampa’ or ‘great-Grampa’ Paul. To many others he was simply ‘Uncle Paul.’ To many more, he was a Teacher. And for so many more, a Friend who cared.

Until the resurrection, he will be deeply missed.

Paul Coleman

Lived Life Fully

Musician, Teacher, Scholar, Photographer, Beekeeper, Sportsman, Craftsman, Handyman, Mechanic, Carpenter, Cabinet Maker, Missionary, Gardener, Ham Radio Operator, Licensed Pilot, Prankster, Hard Worker, Brother, Father, Husband, Lover of Life, and a Friend to Many.

Paul was interred on April 27, 2009, in the Brush Prairie Pioneer Cemetery near Battleground, Washington, in a private service. He sleeps beside his wife, Annie (as he called her), and her parents, Edgar Merle Smith and Catherine ‘Cassie’ Mae (Preston) Smith. Beside their graves lie Joe and Sarah Preston, Annie’s grandparents, who donated the land that the Columbia Adventist Academy Seventh-day Adventist Church and Meadow Glade Elementary School occupy today. Following is an outline of the comments delivered by his son Don at the graveside service.

Although it may seem ironic, it also seems quite appropriate that dad is being laid to rest here today. For it is near Columbia Academy where Paul and Annie first met.

The apostle Paul, writing to the new converts in Thessalonica, said:

"Brothers, I want you to know the truth of what I told you when I was with you. Your loved ones who have died are sleeping in Christ. Don’t grieve over them (the same) as (other) people grieve over their dead, as if there were no hope.

Jesus died – and rose again!; therefore, those who die in Him will be raised to life by God just as Jesus was.

We’re telling you this by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. What He taught us was that we who are living will not be taken to heaven ahead of our loved ones who have died in Christ and are now sleeping.

When Christ descends from heaven, He, as the archangel, will give a shout of command – the trumpet call of God to the dead – and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Then those believers living at that time will be changed and, together with those who have been resurrected, will be caught up in the sky to meet the Lord in the air, and from then on, we will all be with the Lord.

So comfort and encourage each other with these words." (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

I have recently pondered about what were the most important things my dad taught me. And I decided they can be boiled down to three simple concepts:

  1. Dad taught us boys, by word and example, to be GOD FEARING.
  2. Dad taught us boys to be HONEST, to show INTEGRITY in all our dealings.
  3. Dad taught us the importance of HARD WORK and being FRUGAL, (as did the apostle Paul when he said, "Pay as you go to avoid all debts, except the debt of loving one another." Romans 13:8).

I can’t remember how many times dad told us boys, "If you don’t have the cash to pay for it, don’t buy it!"

Dad had a fierce desire to keep on living. He told me so before we took him to the hospital. But his battle with pneumonia was simply too difficult. And he lost that battle on March 5.

We are told that the devil roams the earth, seeking whom he may devour. From the moment of birth we are each engaged in this battle with sin.

But I can say proudly to my father, "Dad, although you lost this battle, you have won the war!"

You can rest now. Sleep well. We will miss you - until we see you in the morning!

Many tributes were received by the family from Paul Coleman's friends and acquaintances.