Barbara Elaine Coffman Profile Photo
1942 Barbara 2024

Barbara Elaine Coffman

June 19, 1942 — January 6, 2024

Waxhaw

 

Barbara Elaine Gunter Coffman, New York Times best-selling author, of Charlotte, North Carolina and Austin, Texas went to be with our Lord on January 6, 2024; passing away from Alzheimer’s Disease at 81, with her children by her side.

Elaine was born on June 19, 1942, in San Diego, California, USA; the daughter of Navy Officer William Samuel Gunter, Jr. and Edna Marie Baucum (née Davidson), a homemaker. As her father was stationed in San Diego during World War II, Elaine became the first in three generations to be born outside of her beloved state of Texas. No matter where she lived, Texas was forever in her heart.

Elaine was a devoted mother to her three children, Charles “Chuck” Coffman of South Carolina, Lesley Strand (née Coffman), and her husband, Jay, of Matthews, North Carolina, and Ashley Getbehead (née Coffman), and her husband, Kevin of Waxhaw, North Carolina, and her cherished, six-grandchildren: Hayden, Sophie, and Rebecca Getbehead, and Jack, Sam, and Ben Strand. She adored being their “Ellie”. 

ABOUT HER LIFE

Education

Elaine graduated from Midland High School in 1960 and went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from North Texas State University, followed by a Master's Degree in Special Education and Language and Learning Disabilities at Texas Tech University.  She took her high school motto to heart - “Not failure, but low aim is a crime”. She aimed for the stars and became one. 

Character and Personality

Elaine has countless times been described as vivacious, beautiful, funny, faithful, up-beat, and talented. It was not uncommon to see her zipping around town with all windows down on her car playing her favorite music. She never remembered the punchlines to jokes but had a witty sense of humor. She was in a league of her own. A Gemini who loved the colors purple and green. Her kind heart, gentle, down-to-earth nature, and fierce determination was admired by all who met her.  A natural storyteller, she shared her love of life, people, animals, nature, and history with an infectious passion and touched so many hearts with her genuine camaraderie.  For one who offered joy to so many, Elaine was fittingly named. Her namesake, derived from the words meaning light or torch, in the years she treasured as a teacher and novelist, her reach was as wide as the ocean and her beacon like a lighthouse guiding her many students and fans on their journey in life.  

Faith and Family

Elaine’s character shined with her strong spirit and unwavering faith in God. She credited God and her grandmother for her success in life. She was a steadfast Presbyterian, a member of the First Presbyterian Church (Midland, Texas), Covenant Presbyterian Church, (Austin, Texas), and Highland Park Presbyterian Church (Dallas, Texas).  While not catholic, she even relished the opportunity to walk through the Holy Door or 'Porta Sancta' which is only opened during a Holy Year (Jubilee), occurring every 25 years at St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican.

Her family, faith, and friends were the center of her life. Elaine’s favorite role was that of a mother and grandmother; she delighted in creating space for family gatherings, whether in her home or abroad, and cherished the moments spent building lasting memories. She leaves behind a legacy of unwavering, unconditional love, and years of memories filled with laughter. 

Society of Friends

She was fortunate to have many special, lifelong friends around the world and from all walks of life, backgrounds, occupations, and lifestyles. From Portugal to Persia, she had great friends. She could be found weekly with her friends playing Mahjong, meeting ladies’ groups for coffee, or sharing a glass of wine on her back porch or at a vineyard in Tuscany, or a margarita alongside a sunset “Deep in the heart of Texas”.

Elaine had many unique social opportunities in life. Whether attending the swearing in of President Reagan, attending President George Bush’s Black Tie and Boots Ball hosted by the Texas State Society, waltzing with princes, or dancing the Texas Two Step, she valued each and every person who was a part of her life. She adored her “friends in low places” (as the country music song goes). She was down-to-earth and found value in each who crossed her path. Her legacy lives on in the hearts of the millions of lives she touched through her comradery, love of helping others, teaching, and as a novelist. She left an indelible mark on those who had the privilege of knowing her.

Her Favorite Things

Elaine had many penchants in life. Shoes and shopping were a favored pastime. She loved Blue Bell ice cream, babies, Texas bluebonnets, George Strait, men in kilts,  jalapeño burgers, Tex-Mex food, and a great margarita. Oh, and let’s not forget the “liiiime-a-ritas” which she’d declare with the best of Texan Twangs. She had a profound love of children and animals, especially horses.  When she owned ranches, she spent years raising quarter horses, Brahman cattle, two Belgian draft horses named Ike and Rube, two donkeys named Clyde and Claude, and a peacock that loved to spread his tail feathers while standing on Rube’s back - quite the sight. She even fostered two orphaned Russian Boars. She especially adored her cat, Annabelle.

Travel and Culture

Elaine’s love of history and travel took her to many places.  She lived in Dallas, Lubbock, Midland, and Austin, Texas for the greater part of her time in this world. She also lived in Annapolis, Maryland (where she sponsored an amazing midshipman), Great Falls, Virginia, Badin Lake, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.

She was fascinated by people and cultures all around the world. While she loved Scotland, its history, and bagpipes, her special place to be was in Italy. She loved the people, the language, music, cuisine, definitely the wine, and the rich history and spent time there writing her novels.

History and Genealogy

Elaine let her creative passion lead her into many pastimes.  She spent several years researching her family genealogy, making trips across the south and Europe to uncover lost family treasures and lines, visiting grave sites and castles in England and Scotland and pouring through tomes in the College of Arms in London, (all before cell phones and the internet!), tracing her family back to Robert the Bruce, William the Conqueror, and Charlemagne.

After several years of research, Elaine garnered membership into numerous genealogical organizations, including:

  • Order the Crown of Charlemagne (accredited lineal descent from the Emperor Charlemagne)

  • The Sovereign Colonial Society of Americans of Royal Descent

  • The Society of Descendants of Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

  • The Jamestowne Society (for descendants of those who owned land or who had domiciles in Jamestown or on Jamestown Island prior to the year 1700.)

  • The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (an order of chivalry associated with Scotland)

  • The National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century (as a lineal descendant of an ancestor who lived and served prior to 1701 in one of the Original Colonies 

  • Descendants of the Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Great Britain

  • The National Society Magna Charta Dames (lineal descendant of one or more of the Barons of England who secured the Articles of Constitutional Liberty from their Sovereign, John, King of England in 1215.

  • The Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain (ancestor Henry III, King of England (1206 - 1272) who married Eleanor Countess of Province)

  • The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution

  • National Society of the United States Daughters of Eighteen Hundred and Twelve

Elaine loved history and was an expert in her own right of Texas, English, and Scottish history. Through this love of history and story-telling ability was a natural progression into becoming a beloved author. 

Writing Career

In 1985, Elaine began writing women’s fiction, historical romance, and suspense; compiling over thirty-five novels and anthologies since the publication of her first book in 1988. Her career spanned many forms of writing styles - she commenced by hand-writing her novels, transitioned to a typewriter, then concluded on a computer (before the auto-save feature, much to her exasperation). Her novels take place in Medieval Scotland, Regency England, Italy, and the American West with over tens of millions of books in print.

When asked why she chose to write historical romance, she replied, “Because I have always loved history, and wondered where my ancestors came from.”

While writing her first novel, My Enemy, My Love, she found herself inspired by a letter her great-great grandmother, Susannah Jane Dowell Shacklett, wrote in 1915, telling about her journey from Brandeburg, Kentucky to Galveston, Texas, and then continuing with an army escort to El Paso, Texas, where her brother, Ben Dowell, a veteran of the Mexican War, was El Paso's first mayor. 

Elaine captured the hearts of fans everywhere with her stories and tales. With dozens of translations worldwide, she has a large, international fan base and devoted readership around the world. She loved her fans and spent years corresponding with them. It is said that the power of a person’s life is the stories they leave behind. Her fans might not know of or “Remember the Alamo”, but Elaine’s legacy of character, faith, and will live well beyond our lifetimes as a part of God’s greater narrative.

Awards, Accolades, and Honors

The 43rd Governor of Texas, Mark White, Jr. issued a proclamation declaring Elaine the Best Novelist of her Genre.

Several of Elaine’s books were nominated for Best Historical Romance of the Year by Romance Writers of America. She also received the Maggie Award of Excellence, Reviewer’s Choice Award honoring the best books of the year, and Best Western Historical Award. If You Love Me, the last book of Elaine’s Mackinnon series, was her first book to hit the New York Times Bestseller List.

Literary achievements include four nominations for Best Historical of the Year, three-time winner of the Reviewers Choice Award, Best Western Historical of the Year, and the RWA Honor Roll. Her books have been selected by Doubleday Book Club and Literary Guild, and she was named one of the Top 10 Romance Novelists by the American Library Association’s Booklist.

For decades, she delighted fans since her first book was featured on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Her books have appeared on the bestseller lists for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Publisher's Weekly. She has also been featured in Entertainment Weekly, People magazine, and even a leading cultural magazine in Egypt.

Always in demand as a speaker, she spoke to clubs and organizations from coast-to-coast and was interviewed by numerous television and radio stations, including a radio broadcast from the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor. She loved to meet her fans while on autograph tours and enjoyed every moment of her photo shoots in New York City. When once asked to create a slogan, she replied “I LOVE what I do!”

With dozens of translations worldwide, she has a large, international fan base and devoted readership around the world from North America, to Ireland, Scotland (Highlanders & Lowlanders), England, Wales, France, Finland, Austria, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Russia, and Poland, to China, Korea, Australia, and back to South America, especially Argentina. She spent years corresponding with her fans around the world.

Elaine’s romances have been noted for their historical research; Publishers Weekly said, in the review for The Italian, "Coffman renders Italy's plight with the exactitude of a historian."

The Epilogue . . .

Elaine, there is an Italian Christmas carol lyric (dated 1732) that is befitting of you: “Tu scendi dalle stelle" (you came a star from heaven). You were loved and will always be mom to us, and Ellie to your beloved grandchildren - the living legacies you left behind. You’ll be forever remembered and adored with a most treasured place etched in our hearts. Your memory will eternally live on as a bright, guiding light in heaven. Your talent was your gift from God. What you did with it was your gift back to God. 

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” — Benjamin Franklin

You accomplished both. Well done! We are so proud of you.

Mom, the last hug has been given, and your last word written. You drew inspiration from Michelangelo for the title of your first novel, "I saw an angel in marble and carved until I set him free." It is only fitting that the culmination of your journey as a novelist, mother, and friend ends by becoming the angel who was set free. You were there when we were born, and it was our honor to be by your side as you departed this world. Your wings were ready while our hearts were not.

 

Arrivederci, Bellissima!

Mizpah. [Genesis 31:49]

 

__________________________

Elaine’s family will gather to bid her farewell and to celebrate her remarkable life in a small ceremony in North Carolina where it is said that there are more people of Scottish ancestry than in her beloved Scotland. The service will be held at 11:30 AM ET on Monday, January 15, with a graveside service at Gethsemane Memorial Gardens in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Gaskin Funeral Services of Matthews, North Carolina is serving the Coffman, Getbehead and Strand families. https://www.gaskinservices.com/obituaries/barbara-coffman 

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Elaine Coffman may be directed to the Philadelphia Presbyterian Church in Mint Hill, North Carolina. https://www.philadelphiachurch.org/give

 

 


 

 

Publications Authored by Elaine Coffman

 

Single Novels

 
  1. My Enemy, My Love, 1988, reissue 1991

  2. If My Love Could Hold You, 1989, Dell; Fawcett reissue, 1998

  3. For All the Right Reasons, 1991, Dell; Fawcett reissue

  4. Somewhere Along the Way, 1992, Dell

  5. So This Is Love, 1993, Fawcett reissue

  6. Heaven Knows, 1994, Fawcett Books

  7. A Time for Roses, 1995, Fawcett Books

  8. When Love Comes Along, 1995, Warner Books

  9. If You Love Me, 1997, Fawcett Books

  10. Someone Like You, 1997, Fawcett Books

  11. The Bride of Black Douglas, 2000, MIRA

  12. The Fifth Daughter, 2001, MIRA

  13. The Italian, 2002, MIRA

  14. The Highlander, 2003, MIRA

  15. Let Me Be Your Hero, 2004, MIRA

  16.  By Fire and By Sword, 2005, MIRA

  17. Alone in the Dark, 2006, Pocket Books

 

MacKinnon Brothers Series

1.      Angel in Marble, 1991, 1998

2.     For All the Right Reasons, 1991

3.     Somewhere Along the Way, 1992

4.    So This Is Love, 1993, Fawcett Books

5.     Heaven Knows, 1994, Fawcett Books

6.     When Love Comes Along, 1995, Warner Books

7.     If You Love Me, 1997, Fawcett Books

 

The Italian Chronicles Series

1.      The Fifth Daughter, 2001

2.     The Italian, 2002

 

The Graham-Lenox Family Saga

1.      The Highlander, 2003

2.     Let Me Be Your Hero, 2004

3.     By Fire and By Sword, 2006

 

Anthologies

  1. The Bride of the Black Scot, From the Anthology: To Have and to Hold, 1994, Avon Books

  2. A Ribbon of Moonlight, From the Anthology, Midsummer Night's Madness, 1995, St. Martin's Press

  3. The Bride of Blackness Castle, From the Anthology: 1996, Outlaw Brides, Harlequin; The Bride of Blackness Castle, Reprint Anthology, 2002, A Gentleman of Substance

  4. Playing With Fire, From the Anthology: Seeing Fireworks, 1997 St. Martin's Press

  5. Under The Mistletoe, From the Anthology: ‘Tis the Season, 1997, Zebra Under The Mistletoe, Reprint Anthology, Santa Baby, 2002, Zebra

 

 
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Barbara Elaine Coffman, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Graveside Service

Monday, January 15, 2024

Starts at 11:30 am (Eastern time)

Gethsemane Cemetery and Memorial Gardens

1504 W Sugar Creek Road, Charlotte, NC 28262

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