Kenneth Klepper “Coach” Cokely


Kenneth Klepper Cokely was born on April 27, 1910 in rural Grant City, MO to John Jay and Gertrude Cokely. He was often known as “PK” — preacher’s kid — as his father was a Methodist minister. Since the life of a minister meant spending a few years in many towns across NW Missouri, Ken would often say that that’s how he learned to talk to so many people, as he was always making new friends.

One of the most important friends he made happened during his senior year of high school in Hamilton, MO, where he met the love of his life, Elsa Gibson. Although they were not to marry for seven more years, time for both of them to obtain their teaching certificates, hers from Central Missouri State University and his from both Missouri Wesleyan and Baker University. They were loyal and committed partners. In June 1934, Ken finally got his bride — marrying Elsa and taking her to California, MO, where he was teaching and coaching. Ten months later, their first child, Jack was born.

Shortly after Jack was born, Elsa contracted polio and spent the next two years in the hospital in St. Joseph. In order to spend time with her, Ken gave up teaching temporarily and followed her to St. Joseph, where he worked in his brother-in-law’s hardware store. Thankfully, Elsa regained her health. As the hard­ware store didn’t provide the competitive spirit that Ken needed, they were off to Caledonia, MO for the next teaching opportunity. While in Caledonia, Kaye was born. Then they were off to Platte City, MO for a two year stint.

In 1943, the Cokelys landed in Liberty, MO and the roots took hold. Both Ken and Elsa were very active in the school and the community. During Ken’s 32 years at Liberty, he coached football, basketball, tennis and track; taught girls P.E. during the war years, plus biology and drivers education; and served as the athletic director until his retirement in 1975. In 1972, Liberty High School honored him with the dedication of the new gymnasium, “Cokely Field House.”

During the summers, the Cokelys could be found in Estes Park, CO working at Cheley Colorado Camps. Ken helped manage the transportation barn, while Elsa ran the boy’s camp store. It was a memorable time in both of their lives where they met many, many good friends.

Although Ken had a heavy schedule with family, teaching and coaching, he still found time to be active in the American Cancer Society, Meals on Wheels, Lion’s Club, the Red Cross and the Liberty United Methodist Church. His good deeds earned him William Jewell’s Outstanding Citizen Award in 1988, the Liberty Sertoma “Service to Mankind” award in 1991, and the Lions Club International Foundation Melvin Jones Fellowship.

While he desperately missed the love of his life, Elsa, who passed away in 2003, and his son, Jack who passed away in 1997, Ken continued to show his love for life with his great smile and that twinkle in his eye. He truly enjoyed all of his visitors and the exploits of his daughter, Kaye Megown and husband, Larry, of Hot Springs, AR; his three grandchildren, Lori of New York, NY; Mike and his wife, Jane, of St. Louis, MO; and Robyn Hart and her husband, Matt, of Jefferson City, MO; and eight very active great-grandchildren.

Over the last couple of years, Ken’s health deteriorated, but his spirit and love for family never wavered. He loved being a loyal Liberty Blue Jay and William Jewell Cardinal fan and was so proud when he received his very own letter jacket. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather to us, a great friend to many, and probably the best coach anyone could ever have. Coach will be greatly missed by all...

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