John Peter Coffey of Sandbar Cove, Little Sebago Lake, died at the Veteran’s Hospital in West Roxbury, Mass., after a lengthy illness. He was born in Portland on March 14, 1943, the third son of Peter and Francis (McGinley) Coffey.

He grew up across Main Street from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in the Thornton Heights neighborhood of South Portland. He attended Thornton Heights Grammar School, in South Portland, St. Dominic’s Grammar School and Cheverus High School, both in Portland, and South Portland High School, from which he graduated in 1961. As early as 1949, at the age of 6, he and his family were summer residents of Windham as they rented ”Overlook” cottage at Sandbar Cove from H.H. Boody and later from Arthur Philpot. In 1957, the family bought the Latham cottage across the cove from “Overlook” and christened it the “Coffey Grounds.” In 1987, John inherited the Coffey Grounds and made it his permanent home.

Growing up in the Coffey family, table conversation always included politics. John’s father was a New Dealer, a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers union and a civil servant managing the Federal Housing Office for southern Maine. While still in grade school, John campaigned for Ed Muskie when he ran for governor, and Democrat “Big Jim” Oliver when he ran for Congress. One day when John was in the sixth grade, he came home with a cardboard box of Republican campaign material that he had gotten from their campaign headquarters in Portland and promptly made a bonfire with it in the back yard. In high school he excelled in debating, for which he won statewide awards. In the Army he was trained as a public relations officer.

While attending South Portland High, he met Barbra “Bunny” Hanscomb. They married in 1962 shortly after he joined the U.S. Army. They had four children, Kathleen Marie Pelkey (husband Tracey) of Bowdoinham,, Theresa Leigh Coffey of Bowdoinham, McGinley (Barbara) Jones (husband Dale) of Lubec and John Patrick Coffey ( wife Joan ) of Corinth, Miss. John and Bunny divorced in 1973 and John subsequently married Nancy Marden. John and Nancy divorced in the early 19802. He was predeceased by both his ex-wives.

After being honorably discharged from the Army, he worked for the Aroostook Republican newspaper and later, the Westbrook American Journal.

When Ken Curtis ran for governor in 1966, John went to work for him as an advance man. He canvassed Maine in a surplus U.S. Postal Service bus, full of signs and campaign paraphernalia. Subsequently, he worked for the state as a publicity representative in several departments, including Economic Development, Agriculture and Civil Defense.

In 1968 he was on Robert F. Kennedy’s staff in South Dakota the night Kennedy was assassinated, just as Kennedy won the Democratic presidential primaries in South Dakota and California. Four years later, Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, who John had worked with in the Dakotas, sent him to the Texas Panhandle where he was responsible for organizing the Democratic presidential election campaign in 26 counties.

In 1974, John joined the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. The following year he worked as a substance abuse counselor at Seton Hospital in Waterville. He then worked for nine years as the director of the Western Regional Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council in Lewiston. He also worked for the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Princeton, organizing its recovery programs, the 24 Hour Club in Portland and Beech Hill Hospital in Dublin, N.H., as its Maine outreach coordinator. During this time he attended Goddard College in Vermont part time and earned a baccalaureate and master’s degree in Alcoholic Studies. Throughout the 1990s, although retired, he worked part time for the National Council on Alcoholism, doing lobbying for substance abuse program funding at the Maine State House in Augusta. Also during his retirement he was a member of the Odd Fellows in Windham. Through the grace of God and the fellowship of AA, he accumulated over 20 years of sobriety.

From 1992 until 2008, he felt the Democratic Party had left him and his liberal principles, as it grew increasingly conservative under the Clintons, so he helped organize the Green Party in Windham. He re-registered as a Democrat in 2008 so he could vote for Obama. This year, from his hospital bed, he was a diehard Bernie Sanders supporter.

In addition to his children, he is survived by his grandchildren: Brianna Chute of Kennebunk, Justin Pelkey and his wife Kendra of Brunswick and their son, his great-grandson, Kaidan Pelkey; Taylor Wall of Bowdoin, Sydney Wall of Bowdoin and Dayna Conant of Bowdoin. He is also survived by his brother Joe of Windham; his nephew Joe Coffey and his wife, Lorraine, of Appleton, and their children, his great- nephews Joe and Franklin Coffey, also of Appleton; his nephew Sean Coffey and his wife, Stacey, of Boston, and their children, his great-niece Brianna Coffey and his great-nephew Brendan Coffey, also of Boston. He is also survived by his niece, Angela Coffey of Old Orchard Beach, daughter of his brother, Dave, who predeceased him. He is also survived by numerous first and second cousins and a multitude of friends. Through politics John new a lot of personalities such as Bobby and Teddy Kennedy and Caesar Chavez, but he’ll best be remembered for his great sense of humor and storytelling abilities and his love of dogs.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church on Route 302 in Windham on June 25th at noon. A reception will follow in the parish hall.


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