Ocean Beach 07

James Wallace Coil

March 4, 1924 ~ January 9, 2020 (age 95)


James W. Coil passed peacefully, with both his children at his side, on Thursday, January 9th, 2020, at St. Mary’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the age of 95.

Jim was born on March 4, 1924, in Flint, Michigan.  He was the oldest of three children (siblings Shirley and Eugene) born of Scottish and Irish descent, to Charles and June Coil, and was the sole survivor of his immediate family for many years.

Upon graduation from Flint Central High School in 1942, Jim enlisted in the United States Navy.  A proud and decorated veteran of World War II, he served for three and a half years as a signalman beginning duty in the North Atlantic and ending his naval career with a communications unit attached to the 8th Army in the Philippines in 1945. 

Using his G.I. Bill, Jim graduated in 1950 from the Art Institute of Chicago, excelling in drawing, painting, and illustration.  He began working shortly thereafter as a graphic artist for the American Peoples and later World Book Encyclopedia companies.  A self-styled intellectual, he also studied at Northwestern University in Chicago, taking classes in English composition, philosophy and advertising.  In addition, his life-long love of music, specifically from the classical Russian composers was notable and sustained him until his final days.

In October, 1957, he married Frieda Darras of Chicago, Illinois, joining her large family, headed by Greek immigrant parents.  Daughter Paula and son Greg were born in the early 1960s.

In 1968 Jim and his family returned to Michigan.  He worked for an advertising firm in Battle Creek before relocating to Grand Rapids to continue his work in the graphic arts field.  Toward the end of his work life, Jim served and eventually retired from Wyoming Public Schools. 

Jim’s passion for painting and visual art continued throughout his life, resulting in many works from portraits to landscapes, in various mediums.  Several of his early paintings of Chicago landmarks like Grant Park were reproduced as prints.  As his head curator, his wife Frieda sold or gifted many of Jim’s prints to family and friends throughout the Grand Rapids community, especially those with Chicago ties.

Jim and Frieda celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in October of 2017.  Throughout their marriage, Jim enjoyed being part of, and was embraced by the Greek Orthodox community. 

Frieda passed away on January 8th, 2018.  Jim is survived by his two children, Paula and Greg, and granddaughter, Natalie, along with many nephews and niece, who, along with their families remain to remember him.

A memorial gathering will take place this Saturday, January 11th, from 3-5 pm in the dining hall at Cook Valley Estates, 1049 East Paris Avenue, in Grand Rapids. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Jim’s honor to:

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
330 Lakeside Drive NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
3000 Monroe Avenue NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James Wallace Coil, please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
January 11, 2020

3:00 PM
Cook Valley Estates
1049 E. Paris Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546


Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
330 Lakeside Dr NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, Grand Rapids MI 49503
Tel: 1-616-454-6563
Web: http://holytrinitygoc.org/

Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
3000 Monroe Ave NE, Grand Rapids MI 49505
Tel: 1-616-364-5300
Web: https://www.michiganveterans.com/p/Donate-to-Homes/

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