Jerome Thomas Coe died peacefully in his sleep on March 8. He was 91, and a resident of the Jenner’s Pond Retirement Community in West Grove, Pennsylvania, since 1999, A successful chemical engineer and business executive, Jerry was also an avid competitive sailor for his entire life.
Both during his working years and in retirement, Jerry owned and sailed a variety of sailing craft, from E-scows designed for lakes to the 40-foot sloop Indian Summer, which he sailed for many years from the family summer home in Vineyard Haven. He was widely known as one of best racing skippers in New England waters. His beloved wife, Elizabeth Muir Coe, whom he met and married in Schenectady during World War II, was a long-time crewmember. Their three children, Wendy, Jeff, and Roy, inherited his love of wind and water.
His self-published “My Sailing Life” is a richly illustrated account of his sailing experiences from childhood on Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, to the racing and cruising years aboard Indian Summer. Everyone who has ever been aboard a boat with Jerry treasures this carefully researched account of more than 75 years of sailing experience.
Born in Madison, Wisconsin, on January 2, 1921, to Jerome H. Coe and Helen Smith Coe, he graduated from Madison West High School and attended Phillips Exeter Academy for one year, before entering the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, Jerry majored in chemical engineering, was a member of Chi Phi fraternity, played varsity basketball, and was a four-year member of the sailing team. He was elected president of the Class of 1942 during his junior and senior years and was inducted into the honorary society Tau Beta Pi.
Hired by the General Electric Company, Jerry worked at its research laboratory in Schenectady, New York, before joining the U.S. Navy during World War II. He served in the Pacific Theater as a lieutenant junior grade aboard the destroyer USS Bristol (DD857), where he was the ship’s radar officer. Following the end of hostilities, the Bristol was part of the U.S. fleet in Japanese waters, anchoring in Tokyo Bay.
Jerry rejoined General Electric in 1945, where he helped lead the company into chemical manufacturing, particularly silicones. He holds a U.S. patent for the fluidized bed process for making silicone, a process that is still in use worldwide. His career as a GE executive took him from Schenectady to Greenwich, Connecticut, and to Troy, Michigan, where he served as vice president in charge of the industrial materials and metallurgical division of the company. The final years of his career were spent in Greenwich, while he worked at GE’s Fairfield, Connecticut, headquarters. He retired in 1983.
In addition to “My Sailing Life,” Jerry wrote “Unlikely Victory: How General Electric Succeeded in the Chemical Business” (published by Chemical Heritage Foundation/John Wylie). The book chronicled the entry of GE into various chemical businesses, its successes and missteps, and the subsequent withdrawal of the company from most of these enterprises.
Jerry was predeceased by his wife, Elizabeth “Peggie” Coe, and their son, Roy Muir Coe. Survivors include daughter Wendy Coe Lott and her husband, Jeffrey Lott, of Yorklyn, Delaware; son Jerome Muir “Jeff” Coe and his wife, Marianne Kah, of Houston, Texas; grandson Joseph Coe Lott and his wife, Elizabeth Healy, of New York City; and grandson Michael Coe Lott, also of New York. He will also be missed by his dear friend and companion, Dotty Philips of the Jenner’s Pond Retirement Community.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 24, at 11 am, in the theater of the Alison Building at Jenner’s Pond, 2000 Greenbriar Lane, West Grove, to be followed by a reception. Mr. Coe’s remains will be interred alongside those of his late wife. at the First Congregational Church of Old Greenwich. A service of thanksgiving for his life will be held at that church on Saturday, April 28, at 11 am, followed by a reception.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent, science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Gifts may be addressed to the UCS at Two Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA 02138-3780, or made on the Web at ucsusa.org/memorial.
Arrangements are by the Foulk & Grieco Funeral Home, West Grove, PA. Online condolences may be made by visiting griecocares.com.