Laura Gayle Coon, age 82, of Riley, died November 14, 2021, at her residence.

The daughter of Lloyd and Gertrude Coon, she was born in Wamego and grew up on farms near the communities of Wabaunsee and Zeandale. After her graduation from St. George High School (since closed, so she now has a Rock Creek High School transcript), she studied music education at Kansas State University. During her tenure there she worked at Ferrell Library, which has since been incorporated into Hale Library.

After teaching music a few years in Wellington and El Dorado, KS, Laura Gayle felt called to fulfill a long-time dream to become a missionary. Having had no training in that field, she trekked to Columbia, South Carolina for her masters at Columbia Bible College, now known as Columbia International University.

In 1970 she packed her bags and flew to Costa Rica for language study. After a year there, she headed to Rubio in Western Venezuela to become a music teacher at a boarding school for children of missionaries. After she arrived, she discovered that they needed a librarian, so she started putting to use her years of experience working in the library at K-State. She found herself wanting to know more about running a library, so during a year-long furlough she obtained her Master of Library Science degree at Emporia State University.

Partly because of security issues caused by Colombian guerillas, in 2001 the boarding school closed, so Laura Gayle’s sister, Mary Ann Buhler, helped her move to Caracas to be the librarian at a Christian international school. The move wasn’t all work, though, as the two sisters found time to explore the island of Bonaire and go snorkeling. After living in a small city of 69000, residing in a metropolitan city of millions was an adjustment, as was living during a time of political unrest, especially when tear gas entered her apartment building!

Deciding to retire in 2004, she determined she did not want to deal with the snow of Kansas, so she got Mary Ann once again to help her move, this time carting her stored belongings from Manhattan to Edinburgh, Texas, where Laura Gayle became the librarian at Rio Grande Bible Institute. Edinburgh’s proximity to the Mexican border made the transition to the U.S. culture much easier: sometimes store clerks spoke English, and sometimes they spoke Spanish. In addition, the Bible institute had two phases to its education: language study for missionaries headed to Latin America, and biblical education for students who came from Latin American countries. Most of the staff had been missionaries in Latin America and some of them Laura Gayle had known from her years on the field.

In May 2011 Laura Gayle re-retired. Having realized that she missed being around family, she decided to bite the bullet and move north. She found a cute little house in Riley into which the Grace Baptist Missions Committee helped her move in June. Very grateful for their help, she has become a member of that committee.

One concern that she had about retirement was that she would not have anything to do. Wrong! She had been a member of Grace Baptist since her college days, so it was natural that she would continue to make it her home church. In addition to serving on the Missions Committee, she helped with Awana on Wednesday evenings. The first week or so after she moved in, she walked into the Riley Public Library and introduced herself as a librarian. She was immediately invited to volunteer, so not only does she keep the library open a few mornings every week, but she also is on the library board.

In spite of being a librarian all these years, Laura Gayle had not forgotten her music. While in Venezuela she taught music and gave piano lessons. In Texas she sang in the Valley Symphony Chorale. Continuing the choral tradition, she sang in Manhattan’s community choir, the Flint Hills Masterworks Chorale. Mary Ann was the accompanist for the chorale until 2020, so this gave the two of them an activity that they could share. In 2009 they joined several others from the chorale on a tour of Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic, then in 2012, Italy, performing in Venice, Florence, Assisi, and Rome. Another highlight was being able to sing in a mass choir in Carnegie Hall.

Survivors include her sister, Mary Ann Buhler and her husband Forrest of Manhattan; sister-in-law Beth Coon of Manhattan; several nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

Laura Gayle was preceded in death by her parents and her brother Allan Leroy Coon.

Funeral services will be held at 1:30 P.M. Thursday, November 18th, at the Grace Baptist Church, 2901 Dickens Avenue, Manhattan, with Reverend Wesley Paddock officiating. Interment will follow in the Pleasant Valley Cemetery near Zeandale.

The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 7:00 P.M. Wednesday at the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home.

Memorial contributions may be made to either Grace Baptist Church or Zeandale Community Church. Contributions may be left in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502.

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