William “Willy” Larkin Coker
August 24, 1994 – October 22, 2014
On August 24th 1994, William Larkin Coker, or “Willy” as most of his friends called him, lit up this world for the first time with his bright spirit and unforgettable smile. Willy never met a stranger. He had friends everywhere. Holly Highfield, Willy’s mother, resides in Florida but received infinite love and affection from her son always. And though Willy could make any relationship memorable, the one with his father, Will Coker, was not as close. Yet even if Willy’s at-home life was often rough, you would never know it. He was an optimistic and encouraging friend with a positive word to say about anybody and everybody. For most of his young adult life, Willy was raised by his grandparents in Talladega, Alabama and eventually attended high school at the Donoho School in Anniston, Alabama, my alma mater. This is where I had the chance I am so grateful for to meet Willy, the most handsome young tenor whose deep and gruff head voice paired with his beautifully smooth falsetto made every girl swoon. We sang in the high school choir together and my senior year (his junior year) he played my younger brother Edmund Pevensie in our spring production of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. I spent time with him mostly through one of my best friends, Melissa Patterson, who loved him with all her heart. Willy likewise expressed his affection for her often and never let a day pass without making her smile. “He had the most perfect timing to remind me that he was there and that he loved me,” she says.
Willy combated every sad day with a joke or a sweet tune. He learned to make the best of every situation. I remember most vividly a conversation I had with him after he had been in a car accident. He told me that it was not his first car accident and probably not his last. He said he was safe. Nobody was injured. His car was crushed and his chest was bruised, but he smiled. He smiled the same nonchalant, ever-so-smooth, “Don’t worry about it, babe” smile he always smiled. He never let anyone have fear, especially not for his sake. He was a strong soul who constantly served others. He knew a hug, a good conversation, or just a silly joke could make you forget reality if just for a moment.
After high school, Willy moved to Jacksonville, Alabama and made even more friends. He spread love and laughter to everyone he met. Unfortunately along with friends Willy also became acquainted with various substances which ultimately led to his death, due to an overdose, on October 22, 2014. “Because Willy had extreme highs, he had extreme lows,” says Patterson, “Willy went through more in his life than any person should have to. Willy believed that you do not get a second chance at life, and he was going to make the very best of the one he had. And the time I got to spend with him will always be some of he greatest in mine.” In the way that he touched Melissa’s life, he touched many more. And though he has passed, his light will forever shine in the hearts of those who knew him. His jokes and humorous mannerisms, his sweet smile and mischievous eyes, and his incredibly caring and thoughtful heart will never be forgotten. Melissa told me of some of her favorite memories of Willy. At her older brother’s wedding in May 2011, Willy caught the garter! “We ran around being stupid all night. It was one of the greatest nights of my life with him. Though I didn’t know it at the time, that’s the night that I realized I loved him much deeper than I thought.” He wrote her a letter that night expressing his love for her as well. Melissa, who attended the University of South Alabama in Mobile a year later made a trip down to Panama City to visit him. “We had dinner and sat on the beach with a drink after. Our first kiss was that night.”