With a long history on the Peninsula and surrounding area, Ron and Jan Coen are retired, yet still serving their community. The Wauna couple are quite familiar to people in the Gig Harbor area, where they are among the biggest supporters of the F.I.S.H. food bank.
Born in Indiana, Ron moved to the Minter area with his family when his father took a job at the Navy shipyard in Bremerton. After graduating, Ron joined the Navy, in which he served for 26 years. His assignments included the aircraft carriers Constellation, America and the Kitty Hawk. He served during the Viet Nam conflict, with his ship based in Japan. Jan Coen remembers many interesting tidbits of information, such as when airplanes needed repair, the Navy utilized a Japanese manufacturing plant to produce needed parts, which would have otherwise taken valuable time to be sent front the States. Ron retired from the Navy and became a bishop’s assistant in the Lutheran Church. During a reorganizing process, he became a regional coordinator, covering Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. He currently works for the Lutheran Insurance Co., which is a fraternal organization serving widows and orphans. Ron’s job involves deciding the best allocation of money for nonprofit use to help others.
While living in San Diego in the early ‘70s, where her husband was stationed with the Navy, Jan served as the social concerns chairman of her church. One of her opportunities was to work with other churches in the area to provide help for those in need.
Jan’s uncle was the original owner of the former Pearl’s Restaurant in Purdy, where The Beach House is now located. Her father worked at the Navy shipyard until the Depression, and then logged in Seabeck. Jan remembers an obstinate donkey that was used to pull the logs out. The donkey took advantage of every opportunity to walk away from the job site and return home. Later on, Jan’s father bought the Standard Station, which is now Chevron and located below the Peninsula High School. Her mother’s family came from Illinois, through Canada, and settled into farming near Pt. Defiance.
Jan says that with family history in the area, there are endless stories of interest and enjoyment. “We could fill a book,” she said.
Of her travels with her husband, Jan says her favorite foreign assignment was Japan, where they spent four years and where their son was born. Ron’s love for history enamored him with such places as Turkey, particularly Istanbul.
While her husband served his country, Jan enjoyed her role as homemaker and mother of four: three girls and a boy. Both Jan and Ron now consider themselves professional grandparents, enjoying nine grandchildren, only two of which are boys.
In 1975, the Coens returned to the Peninsula. With her experience and heart for helping others, Jan began seeking out organizations and ministries in the area with the resources to accomplish her mission. Research revealed that the greatest need at the time was transportation. So, organizing such established groups as Associated Ministries, police and fire departments, and local churches, Jan made transportation available for appointments, shopping, translation and other services, and supported the Wauna Food Bank, until it moved off the Peninsula in the late ‘70s.
Jan first became acquainted with F.I.S.H., an international help organization, when she came across a brochure while in Japan with her husband. Jan was able to start a F.I.S.H. group here. The familiar help organization, which serves both Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula residents, is now housed in Gig Harbor. Jan serves as president of the board and runs the food bank. She expresses that she is both thrilled and grateful for the “high caliber of people who volunteer.” The couple have been instrumental in the organization’s growth, working extra hard to find its current location after outgrowing the previous one.
Neither Ron nor Jan have any immediate plans of giving up their work in serving their community, and say they find great pleasure and satisfaction in helping others.