It’s been some 67 years since Huber Heights donor Carl Coe sailed off to war on a US Navy aircraft carrier, 55 years since his life was saved by a blood transfusion, and about 32 years since he began the journey that brought him to his 255the lifetime donation on his Aug. 29 visit to the downtown Dayton Community Blood Center (CBC). But he still has the spirit of a “Sparky,” the Navy’s traditional nickname for an electrician’s mate.
Carl reached his milestone with a whole blood donation. His routine over the years has been to alternate whole blood donations with apheresis donations of platelets and plasma. But at age 85, he says his platelet count isn’t what it used to be so he no longer donates apheresis. Since he no longer drives, he says he may soon have to stop donating altogether. Like many of the still surviving members of “The Greatest Generation” his strength may be fading but his memories are vivid.
Carl wore an “Honor Flight” t-shirt to CBC to make his milestone donation. The Honor Flight network was co-founded in Springfield, OH by retired Air Force Captain Earl Morse. It is dedicated to transporting as many military veterans as possible to see the war memorials in Washington, D.C. at no cost to the veterans.
Carl made his honor flight on July 11, 2009. “That was great!” he said. “It was the only way I would have got to see the memorials. It was fantastic. And we had a fantastic guide, Shirley Campbell from Springfield. They called her an ‘Honor Guardian.’ She could explain everything and she had it down pat.”
Carl grew up in Syracuse, NY and calls himself “a Buckeye by choice.” He was 18 when he graduated high school and went right into the Navy as World War II was ending. “I was on board an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic, the USS Seipan,” he said. “I was an electrician’s mate. They always called us electrical people ‘Sparky.’”
The nickname seems to especially fit Carl, who always acts quickly when he gets the spark of an idea. For example, two years after leaving the Navy he was back serving his country in a new uniform. “I was 21 when the Korean War broke out,” he said. “I knew what was going to happen then. I decided I would choose by service.”
Carl joined the US Air Force, launching the career that ultimately would make him a Buckeye. He was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, where he retired in 1969. While still in the service he survived an emergency that set the stage for his long career as a blood donor.
“In 1958 I was rushed off to the hospital with a ruptured duodenal ulcer,” he said. “I needed blood, somebody donated, and I always thought that I would owe for it.”
During his time in the Air Force, travel and medical deferments kept him from donating and repaying what he considered to be his debt. “I was always prevented from donating in the military because we would be on all those world-wide shots,” he said.
After retirement he became active with the Dayton Masonic Temple blood drives. “In ’81 I worked with the Dayton Masonic Blood Bank as secretary and treasurer,” he said. “When the blood drives came to the Masonic Temple I would donate there. I started doing apheresis because I found out you could donate more often instead of having to wait eight weeks, so I did it.”
Carl should consider his “debt” long paid to whoever donated the blood that saved his life. Yet he is reluctant to stop giving. “I want to get one more donation in,” he said. “That would give me 32 gallons, and then I have to call it quits.”
In truth there is no “quit” in Carl “Sparky” Coe, and no way for the CBC to thank him enough. He is part of a generation that believed in life-long service, and he leaves a legacy that is long and honorable.