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Mary Lukens Coxon, 1934-2020

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Mary Lukens Coxon, 1934-2020

Mary Lukens Coxon died April 11, 2020 – just three weeks after her 86th birthday — having fought a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She passed away at home with her family.

 Mary was born March 20, 1934 to Walter and Ruby (Sheetz) Lukens, on a small farm in Martin County, Indiana. She grew up as the eldest of five children, her mother having lost her first daughter to crib death. Her childhood was set against the back drop of the Great Depression, which fostered in her many of the traits which would serve her well throughout her life. She embodied the values of hard work, thriftiness, and determination — which she nurtured in her own children.

Mary began her education, 1st through 8th grades, at Raglesville Elementary and High School. For a time her father delivered the students to school in a horse-drawn school bus. The school consisted of three rooms and had no library — so Mary read the set of class encyclopedias from A-Z three times while she attended. Determined to make the most of her potential, Mary completed grades 9-12 by moving to Odon, Ind., living with and working for the Helm family and saving her earnings for college. Following her 1952 graduation from Odon High School, she attended Vincennes University. She then transferred to Indiana University where she completed her Bachelors in Education. She completed her BA in three years, paying her tuition with a combination of scholarship awards and money she earned as waitress. She was the first in her family to finish high school, the first to go to university — where she went on to earn a Masters degree and then a Doctorate. Two of her sisters followed in her footsteps and went to college, as well.

Mary taught elementary school in North Judson, Ind. following her graduation, and later attended Purdue University where she completed her M. Ed. During this time she was she not only enjoyed teaching, but acted in many college and community theatre productions. At the end of the 1965-66 school year, Mary drove across country to Pasadena, Calif., where she spent the summer acting at the Pasadena Playhouse Theatre. While driving through the Sonoran Desert on her way to California, she was so taken with the bright-blue, cloudless skies that she decided to attend the University of Arizona to earn her Ed. D.

In August 1966 she moved into a small apartment complex in Tucson. It was only about a dozen units, all facing a courtyard with a pool, and mostly inhabited by UA grad students. This is where she met Moran "Mike" Coxon, who was on sabbatical from his teaching position at Hatfield Technical College in England to teach Engineering at UA. They were married the following May.

She died just six weeks before what would have been their 53rd wedding anniversary.

Mike and Mary settled in Tucson where they raised two daughters, Laura (Franck) and Maria (Coxon-Smith). In 1974, Mary and Mike bought a beautiful home in Indian Ridge Estates where they spent many happy years raising their daughters. Mary loved to read and passed that on with years of bedtime stories and trips to the library for her girls. She also shared her experiences with them from the Depression and farm life, and witnessing the Civil Rights Movement. She taught them to treat other living beings with compassion and dignity. She always held them to very high standards — the same high standards she set for herself — and was especially proud when they both went on to earn degrees in Education.

Mary was part of the first generation of independent American women set on having both a successful career and raising a family. She had hoped very much to live to see a woman become President of the United Sates. During her time in Arizona, Mary helped establish the HeadStart program, was a daycare director at St. Mark’s Preschool and Kindergarten, taught students at the UA and Pima College, became a licensed child psychologist, worked for Tucson Association of Child Care and later as head of daycare licensing for Southern Arizona. Her pioneering MAS curriculum research was still being cited a half-century later. Both she and Mike were UA professors.

The girls having left home, her husband retired and Mary accepted an associate professorship at Kentucky Wesleyan University, and they moved to Owensboro, Ky. Upon her retirement from Kentucky Wesleyan, the Coxons moved to Florida. While in Port Charlotte, Mary volunteered at the Punta Gorda Arts Center, and quickly became integral to running their Arts Education program. The Coxons later moved to Hudson where Mary focused on her love of gardening. Throughout her life, some of her favorite hours were spent tending to her yard and plants while soaking up the sun. She absolutely loved sunny days, and enjoyed her walks on the white, sandy beaches of Florida.

During the summer of 2014, the Coxons moved to a house they had built in Nashville, Tenn., in order to be closer to family. But Mary was never really far from family, making herself available whenever needed, and visitied family around the country as much as possible. She even bought airplane tickets for her daughters a few times in their 20s so that they could afford to visit her. It is hard to explain just how much Mary loved her children (all children really), but she once commented that she couldn't understand why a friend was waiting so long to meet her new grandchild, exclaiming that she would "Climb over the Devil himself to see her grandchildren." None of us doubted it. Even at the end of her life, when Alzheimer's made it hard for her to recognize people, she always knew her grandkids, and her smile lit up the room when they came to visit her.

 It is impossible to express in a short piece of writing just what this exceptional woman meant to her friends and family, or the intensity with which she will be missed. We will be forever grateful that she was a part of our lives.

In addition to her parents, Mary was predeceased by sisters Hazel, Eva, and Betty Jean.  She is survived by her loving husband, Moran (Mike), her sister Donna Sue (Yuschak) and brother Bill, daughters Laura and Maria, grandchildren Ian, Katherine and Rebekah, and numerous nieces and nephews. A celebration of life will be held at a future date.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Mary Lukens Coxon scholarship fund at Vincennes University.

Online donation information can be found at
Or donations can be mailed to VU Foundation, 1002 N. First Street, Vincennes, IN 47519.  Please note the name of the scholarship fund on the memo line of your check.

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