Thomas “Tom” James Coates

Thomas (Tom) James Coates passed away on Dec. 3, 2021 at home during an illness. He was born in a farmhouse on Nov. 24, 1942 near Scottsville, New York, to James (Big Jim) Martin Coates and Lois Elizabeth Ely Coates. The Coates clan was of Scottish and English heritage. The families in the clan owned large farms with diverse crops and a commercial gravel pit. They valued education, industriousness, frugality and hard work.

In August 1950, to escape the brutal upstate New York winters and steamy summers, James and Elizabeth moved their family across the country to Malibu, California and started Coates Construction. Tom graduated from Santa Monica High School in 1960. He majored in civil engineering at Santa Monica College before joining his father in building and remodeling. Tom often said that one of the best decisions he ever made was to work alongside his father, and construction was their calling.

After his father retired due to illness, Tom moved to the Clatskanie area at the urging of a local family. He established a business of tile and stone interior installations to escape the Pacific Northwest rain but built several homes and other structures despite the weather. He enjoyed close working relationships with numerous architects and general contractors along the north Oregon and southwest Washington coasts. One of his installations was featured on the cover of an architectural magazine.

Tom enjoyed playing his guitar, Sudoku and the card game of Euchre. Over time, he collected and solved every puzzle in the Tavern Puzzle collection, modeled after the mechanical diversions forged by blacksmiths in earlier centuries. It was the only time this quiet man came “this close” to gloating.

On Feb. 14, 1986 he married Sharon Eskola, who he teasingly called his “Finnish danish.” She survives him at the cottage and woodworking shop he designed and built, mostly by himself, for their retirement.

Tom is also survived by his brother Howard (Biff) Coates of Crescent City, California, a blended family of daughter Lorell Coates Bedevian (Gabriel), Houston, Texas; daughter Amy Lynn Coates Poehls, Bartlesville, Oklahoma; son Ernest Riddle, Clatskanie, Oregon; daughter Liisa Riddle Dodd (Peter), Mesa, Arizona; grandchildren, Joshua Poehls (Kristina), Luling, Texas, Brett Holte (Bailey), Richland, Washington, and Allison Hargett (Tyler), McMinnville, Oregon; six great-grandchildren; and several cousins also survive.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents; and sisters, Amy Coates and Judith Coates Beard (Minford).

A public viewing begins at 9:30 a.m., followed by a service at 1 p.m. on Thurs., Dec. 9, 2021 at Columbia Funeral Service, 1105 Maple St., Longview, Washington. A future Celebration of Life will be announced in social media and print.

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