Graveside Funeral Services for the late Henry “Sputnik” Coker, Jr. were held on Saturday, September 12, 2020 at the Vaiden Cemetery near Vaiden Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. Funeral arrangements entrusted to the professionals of Hughes and Sons Funeral Home in Batesville.
Mr. Henry “Sputnik” Coker, Jr. was born July 25, 1932 in Carroll County, to the late Emma Franklin Hill-Lacy and Henry Coker. He received an education in Carroll County and later began a career in construction.
He accepted Christ at an early age and joined Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Vaiden. He married Minnie Lee Harris on October 23, 1965 and their union would go on to last for more than 54 years! Shortly after they were married, the two moved to Chicago, Ill. He later returned to Vaiden and furthered his career in construction and he became a Foreman for N.L. Carson Construction Company in Carthage. He worked in construction for more than 30 years! He also became a business owner - establishing many night clubs and businesses in the Carroll-Montgomery County areas from the early 1970s until the early 2000s.
The late Mr. John Lynn “J.L.” Edwards assisted him for several years. Some of those clubs included, “The Pines”, “The High Chaparral”, “The V.I.P.”, “Sputnik’s Lounge”, and “Club 51”. He later became club partners with his friends, James “Tuta Baby” Blakes and the late Bobby “Redd” Taylor and continued to keep the clubs relevant and appeal to the younger generations. Throughout the community, he was affectionately known as “Sputnik” and he was also known for always wearing Stetson Hats and Cowboy Boots!
Sputnik was a prominent businessman known for bringing National Blues Recording Artists to the area to include Tyrone Davis, Denise LaSalle, Betty White, Bobby Rush, McKinley Mitchell, Marvin Sease, Bobby Blue Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Percy Sledge, B. B. King, Little Milton, Muddy Waters, Lynn White, and other up and coming artists. He also brought some of the best DJs in the area including some from WGNL and WJMI radio stations.
He opened up pool halls and arcades for the youth to have a place to hangout. He even partnered with the local students and allowed them to host “record hops” (dances/parties) to raise money for their class. He was a successful entrepreneur and his nightclubs and businesses were social staples in the community.
He loved sports - especially baseball. He would umpire many baseball games and coach teams at the Winona Community Center for the summer leagues. He loved it so much, that he and his cousin, who was like a brother to him, the late Willie James Coker, started their own baseball team to give the youth something to do during the summer and to help keep them out of trouble. His favorite sports teams were the Atlanta Braves and the Greenbay Packers.
Some of his hobbies included watching westerns like Gunsmoke, riding to the casino with his niece Beverly Coker, hanging with his friends David Cox and Charles Gayden, and hanging over at his cousin’s house, Lillie G Merritt playing cards with her and her brothers, listening to blues and gospel music, and eating at his favorite restaurants like Piccadilly, Cracker Barrel, and Guy’s Fish House.
He was concerned about the social and political issues in the community and he would volunteer his time to pick up residents to take them to the polls to vote. He also ran for the office of Alderman, but fell short. He was the inspiration for his granddaughter, Lesia (Tony) Hemphill to run for Alderwoman and she currently still serves in this office in Vaiden today.
Henry Jr. was called home on Monday, September 7, 2020, while at Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospital in Winona. He was preceded in death by his parents, Henry Coker & Emma Lacy; son, Edward Tracy Coker; daughter, Gloria Duren; brothers, Frank “Bilbo” Myles and John Lee Lacy; and sisters, Sally Manuel, Sallie Coker Horton and Mary Alice Coker.
Henry’s sweet memories will forever be cherished by: his wife, Minnie Harris Coker of Vaiden; 4 daughters: Ruthie (Helbert) Dear of Lansing, MI; Louise (Freddie) Tillie of Vaiden, Tabitha Coker of Fort Worth, Texas, and Jessica (Joshua) Hughes of Grenada; two sons: Frank (Rode) Coker of Arlington, TX and Lindell (Conranon) Coker of Douglasville, Ga.; a grand-daughter who lived with him: Tracelia (Monquaydron) Anderson of Fort Worth, Texas; beloved niece Anna Jean Gholston of Grenada,; beloved cousin Lillian Montgomery of Portland, OR; and close cousins who were like sisters, Annie Lois Coker of Vaiden and Eloise Gary of St Louis, MO.
6 sister-in-laws: Lizzie Harris and Josephine Brown both of St. Louis, MO, Mary (Larry) Bibbs of Winona, Lue Ethel Blackmon, Laverne Joy, and Margaret Washington all of Chicago, Ill.; 4 brother-in-laws: James Alonzo Harris, Jr. of Chicago, Ill., Willie Harris of Vaiden, Milton (Dorothy) Pickens of West, and John Thomas (Shirley) Pickens of Milwaukee, WI.
A dear friend, his barber Mr. Lemon Cunningham of Vaiden; a god-son Wesley “Donnel” Ellis of Vaiden,; 18 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, 26 great-great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends.