Mary Mae Coggins Eastman passed away on Sept. 7 at Evanston Regional Hospital. She was 97. In the near century of her life, she was an embodiment of what it means to be young at heart.
Mary was born on April 4, 1924, in Salt Lake City, to Loyma “Bish” Coggins and Mae Mary Whiting Coggins of Evanston, where the family made their home, first on Chesney Ranch in Almy and then on three different ranches in the Hilliard area. Bish and Mae’s only child, Mary was a surprise for the couple, who were in their 30s when she came along.
Bish was a true cowboy and sheepherder. When Mae was pregnant with Mary, she was taking a photo of Bish riding his horse when the horse kicked her in the head and sent her to the hospital. Mary arrived a short time later and copies of the photo Mae took remain hanging in family homes to this day.
Mary tragically lost her mother when only 15 years old. Bish did his best raising his daughter as a single father, though his work as a sheepherder kept him away from home for days or weeks at a time. Mary would rise early at the ranch, light the stove and do chores on her own before heading to Evanston High School, where she graduated in 1942. She took a job waiting tables at a café when she was 15 and then began working at the New Paris Café in downtown Evanston – which is now the home of the Wonderful Inn – where she worked for 28 years.
As a girl, she loved to ride horses. One winter as a teen Mary rode her horse bareback over four miles each way every day to catch the school bus, which was a team of horses and a bobsled. She carried her lunch in a lard bucket.
In 1936, 12-year-old Mary was riding her bike when she wrecked and a 13-year-old boy from Woodruff, Utah, happened to be there and came to her assistance. Five years later in April 1941 that boy, Arvel James Eastman, accompanied Mary to her junior prom. In December 1946, after Arvel returned from serving in the Pacific during WWII, the two were married at the Uinta County Courthouse in Evanston.
Mary and Arvel raised four children, MaeVonne, Mary Ellen, Arvel C. “Bud,” and Russell. They moved into a home on Evanston’s Front Street in 1951, which Mary called home for the next 70 years.
Mary eventually hung up her waitressing apron and went to work in the general store at the Wyoming State Hospital, where she worked for 18 years until her retirement in 1986.
In the late 1960s, Mary took on the role of grandmother and for the next 50-plus years was affectionately known as Nana to a gaggle of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.
Mary loved music and dancing and the times Arvel would take her out dancing. Even after Arvel passed away in 1980, she continued to love to dance and would take every opportunity to kick up her heels. She enjoyed traveling and road trips and kept her mind active playing solitaire and rearranging the furniture in her living room on a seemingly perpetual basis.
She was devoted to her pets over the years, both dogs and cats, loved to make ceramics and crafts, research family history and genealogy, and enjoyed watching Utah Jazz basketball, even getting to meet some of the players and be serenaded by the Jazz Bear on her birthday. She also adored her many, many friends from pinochle, the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, the Red Hat Ladies and so many more.
She loved her family fiercely and took any opportunity to talk about what they were all up to. Her favorite days were those her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids would stop in for unexpected visits. She insisted on attending all their concerts, plays and sporting events, from supporting her four children when they were young all the way through to supporting her great-grandchildren currently attending local schools, even when it involved climbing the stairs at Evanston High School in her late 90s. She was a tried and true supporter of the Evanston Red Devils.
Possibly the most stubborn person to ever inhabit the Earth, Mary would doggedly pursue her passions and lived her life with exuberance and determination. Blessed with extraordinary good health, she lived independently in her own home until the very end. She danced and sang karaoke at her 75th birthday party and climbed onto the bar at a local watering hole to have a photo taken on New Year’s Eve 2016.
More than anything, Mary understood that life was for living to the fullest each day.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband Arvel and parents Bish and Mae. She is survived by her children MaeVonne Adams of Wellington, Utah; Mary Ellen (Terry) Miller of Salt Lake City; Arvel C. “Bud” and Russell, of Evanston; grandchildren Lance, Cindy, Jaymee, Nikole, Brett, Jana, Marci, Alana, Sheila, Jim, Clayton, Heidi, Rusty, Jon and Katie; 28 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great grandchildren.
In accordance with her wishes, a private family graveside service will be held. A Celebration of Life Open House will be held from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Beeman-Cashin Building in Evanston.
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