Aldine Jacob (A.J.) Coffman, Jr., devoted husband of Penelope Dalton Coffman, succumbed to a sudden heart attack on the evening of June 13, 2022 at his home in Parker, Colorado.
A.J., a retired attorney and Navy reservist, had lived in the greater Denver area for over 35 years. Born on March 20, 1940 in Newport News, Virginia, he was the only child of Anna Evelyn Eggelston and Aldine Jacob Coffman, who were childhood friends and neighbors.
They renewed acquaintances in the early 1930s at Newport News Shipyard after finishing their respective undergraduate degrees and were married soon after. A.J.’s father, Aldine, served in the United States Army during World War II. A.J.’s most poignant early memory was of “meeting” his father upon his return from the European theater, as his dad had gone to war when he was still an infant.
After a happy childhood in Newport News, A.J. graduated from Warwick High School in 1958 and subsequently Randolph-Macon College in 1962. At Randolph-Macon, he majored in Philosophy, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and distinguished himself as a founding member and president of his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Yellowjacket, where he waged a controversial, but ultimately successful campaign to persuade the college to admit African-American men.
A.J. subsequently attended law school at William & Mary (1965) where he was known locally for his enthusiasm for playing Patrick Henry at Colonial Williamsburg. In law school, he met Penelope Irene Dalton, whom he wed after graduation in 1965, and with whom he had two children, a daughter, D’Maris; and son, Derek. He also took a keen interest in his nephew, Robert Durham.
Shortly after graduation from law school and admission to the Virginia bar, A.J. was drafted to serve in Vietnam. He accepted a direct commission as a restricted line officer into the United States Navy, transferring in 1967 to the newly established Judge Advocate General Corps, from which he retired at the rank of captain (O-6) in 1990 after 20 years in the Reserves.
By far the most satisfying billet for him was serving as legal and institutional officer for the geothermal energy development program based at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in Nevada, which included leading work on the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion program at Adak, Alaska, which was discontinued after the end of the Cold War.
In the mid-1970s, A.J. and Penny had moved their young family to Moab, Utah, where they established their general law practice as Coffman & Coffman PC. Their practice offered modern, high quality legal advice to an underserved area of the country and for over a decade kept the largest private law library outside Salt Lake City.
A.J. felt so strongly about the provision of legal education to rural areas that he donated their library to Southern Utah State College (now Southern Utah University) to seed the library for a newly developed legal studies program. A.J. practiced at both the Virginia and Utah bars, retaining associate membership of the latter well into his late 70s.
A.J.’s own practice consisted mainly of a blend of corporate law, real estate, and metals and mining, including representing Atlas Minerals through the closure of the mill in Moab. After moving his family to Denver in 1986 in pursuit of better educational opportunities for his children, A.J. also served as general counsel and director of Legal Affairs for High Country Investments (later Hostmark Hospitality), where he led the restructuring of a struggling hospitality equity holding company into a profitable hospitality management company.
He remained in Denver after the Hostmark merger, and pivoted his career again. His experience at China Lake had introduced A.J. to the opportunities offered under PURPA to develop renewable energy sources, and thus he turned his hand to private power development both in the United States and abroad. He and his business partners achieved early success with the Taylor Draw Hydroelectric Dam and the Mollejon Dam in Belize.
For the remainder of his career, A.J. concentrated on project development in coal-bed methane, industrial metals (garnet and vermiculite), gold, uranium, oil and gas, as well as the occasional real estate deal. His projects spanned Colorado, Utah, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, Belize, China, Pakistan, Uganda, Germany, Wales, and Poland, including stints as CEO of two publicly traded companies.
In addition to his work, his hobbies over the years included fly fishing, pheasant shooting, genealogy and exploring the American West, especially the national parks of Utah, Arizona and Colorado. He was fond of jazz music, rummy and social bridge.
A.J. was known for his kind and gentle manner, his sharp and active mind, and his wide-ranging interests, but he was foremost a devoted husband and family man. He was especially proud of his children’s recent marriages, Derek to Shana Coffman, and D’Maris to John Prowle.
A.J. is survived by his widow, his children and their spouses, four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, and three step great-grandchildren, and his nephew, of whom he was all fiercely proud.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial gift to the American Heart Association in honor of A.J.