On Sunday, approximately 200 people gathered at Centennial Hall for the celebration of Dawn Coe-Jones’ life. It was an emotional event in which family, friends and community members came together to share their fond memories of the golf star and also to share in the grief, still fresh after her death just over a month ago at age 56.
Kelly Feltrin, Dawn’s lifelong best friend, and her family organized the event, which included speeches from Carli Truant, her childhood friends Scott and Bruce Morrow, Terry Graham (a friend and former caddy), her brother Mark Coe, and her husband Jimmy Jones Sr. and son Jimmy Jones Jr. Mayor Ross Forrest was master of ceremonies with Dena McPhee leading the audience in singing Amazing Grace, with accompaniment on the piano by Annette Watson.
In a moving address to the crowd, Feltrin shared her memories of growing up with Dawn and being friends with her until the very end. She described the many firsts she was there to witness — from Dawn catching her first fish at age nine to winning her first professional tournament in Seoul, Korea — and the times she caddied for Dawn, which she said she would always cherish.
She spoke of the great love Dawn had for her husband and son, and the way “she was mother long before Jimmy was born” because of the way she always fussed over and cared for Feltrin and others. Dawn always put her family and friends over her career, said Feltrin.
“Dawn’s roots run deep. Dawn was always loyal to her hometown of Lake Cowichan. She stood on the first tee of every tournament and waited there to hear the words, ‘Next on the first tee, Dawn Coe-Jones of Lake Cowichan, B.C.’,” she said. “She represented March Meadows, Lake Cowichan and Canada with integrity and character everywhere she played.
Feltrin said it was important to Dawn that her son experience being a Canadian — having the opportunity to fish and waterski and be part of a small town — which is why the family purchased a cabin in Honeymoon Bay and came up for summer visits from their home in Tampa, Florida.
This strong connection to the lake was a recurring theme throughout the memories shared on Sunday.
In a letter Rosie Jones, who played on the LPGA Tour with Dawn and is president of the Legends Tour, extended condolences on behalf of the tour, describing her as “a genuine player of the game” and a “formidable foe”.
“Always a hard-worker she was able to harness the raw talent of her youth and turn it into a well-oiled machine worthy of winning golf championships,” said Jones. “She was the player many of us loved to be paired with because we knew beyond that competitor, she was also a very kind considerate and compassionate person to play with.”
Bruce Morrow, who grew up with Dawn on Park Road in Lake Cowichan, described the way they all became avid golfers when March Meadows opened, fondly referring to Dawn by her childhood nickname “Fudge.” The kids would cycle out to Honeymoon Bay, hitch rides and even get there by boat sometimes.
“While she was on tour, I had the pleasure of seeing Fudge play on several occasions,” he said. “Fudge never changed. She was still Park Road.”
Jimmy Sr. thanked everyone in attendance for their support.
“Even though Dawn was kind of an introvert and a private person, she seemed to always have a great group of people around her. From here in Lake Cowichan to Lamar University and then to Tampa and through the LPGA and Legends Tour years,” he said.
“Dawn didn’t realize just how many friends she had until earlier this year when she got sick. Dawn and I were both amazed by the outpouring of support from all the people she’s met along the way.”
Since 2004, the Amandalee Golf Classic in Tampa has been held to raise money for sarcoma research. This year, that tournament was re-named the Dawn Coe-Jones Golf Classic. Jimmy Sr. said Dawn was honoured by the distinction.
Mayor Forrest said Dawn was also proud to be featured on the town’s Sports Wall of Fame in the arena, sharing a spot alongside other lake athletes who she knew and admired. He praised her for her role as an ambassador for the community in all she did
“She certainly gave our community credibility,” Forrest said. “Dawn truly was well-rounded, and that goes back to her growing up on Park Road. The other kids on that street and in that neighbourhood helped teach Dawn about mixing competition and fun while playing road hockey and other sports.”
Forrest also announced the town will be naming the main ball field at Centennial Park in Dawn’s honour when the redevelopment is complete next year.
The celebration of life event closed with a slideshow by Carli Truant.