Oldest female veteran dies at 108 in San Antonio

By SIG CHRISTENSON | San Antonio Express-News | Published: March 19, 2015

The nation's oldest woman veteran, Lucy Coffey, died Thursday in San Antonio. She was 108.

A World War II veteran, Coffey met Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama last summer in the White House as part of a final visit she wanted to make to Washington, D.C.

"I am so honored to have met this incredible lady," Bexar County veterans service officer Queta Marquez said. "She was truly a pioneer, and full of life and spunk."

Coffey died overnight in her sleep, Marquez said, adding that she had been sick this week and suffered a chronic cough.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete. A memorial service in San Antonio is planned before Coffey is laid to rest with her family in Indiana.

Only one other veteran, also a Texan, was older than Coffey. Richard Overton, a Bastrop County native, was born three days before her in May 1906.

A small-town girl from a farm in Martinsville, Indiana, Coffey had a sense of adventure. She left the farm for Chicago, then moved to Dallas, where she was working at an A&P supermarket on Dec. 7, 1941 — the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

After the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was created, Coffey quit the A&P in 1943 and put on the uniform. The war took her to the Pacific and, in time, Japan, where she spent a decade before moving to San Antonio.

Last summer, fellow veterans in Austin and San Antonio worked to help her make an Honor Flight to Washington. While in the capital, she saw the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The weekend was capped by a visit to the White House, where Coffey and Biden spent a half-hour in the West Wing.

Obama also dropped by to meet her.

"We spent some time together and, you know, I know she doesn't speak, but she spoke to me, " Biden said.

Coffey also was honored late last year at a Spurs game, getting to meet both coach Gregg Popovich and her favorite player, Tony Parker.

Coffey had a simple reason for joining the Honor Flight, an all-expense paid salute to World War II veterans.

"I'd like to go to see things that are there that were not there before, " Coffey explained.

"It's been a long time since I've been in Washington, but I would like to go to see the things that are there."


Lucy Coffey, the oldest living female veteran at the age of 108, does a little dance at the Women's Memorial in Virginia on July 26, 2014.