December Difference Maker: John Coker Brings Fun to FXBGDec 17, 2023 06:34PM ● By Leigh Anne Van Doren
If Downtown Fredericksburg looks like a Hallmark Christmas special right now, it owes some of its vintage feel to John Coker. One of the most picturesque activities for the holidays is to bring your children down to the corner of Geoge and Caroline Street to mail a letter to Santa. The Rappahannock Rotary club sponsors a Santa mailbox on the corner next to Fort Play with a special twist: Each letter gets an answer from Santa, Mrs. Claus or the elves.
The amazing mailbox is one of the many projects the retired orthodontist has launched in Fredericksburg that celebrates seasonal holidays. Six years ago, Dr. Coker was inspired by an alumni newsletter from Ann Arbor, Michigan that featured a Santa mailbox program. With the help of the Rotary Club, he brought the program to Fredericksburg. Last year more than 1800 letters were received from area children, and they were all answered by members of the Rappahannock Rotary Club, writing on behalf of Santa Claus.
Dr. Coker, a retired orthodontist, is known for being an involved grandfather and an involved Rotary member. He is the founder of the Scarecrow Fest events that entertain thousands of parents and children each October, including a Scarecrow Contest, a Halloween movie night and Treats on the Streets. He also founded the Pancake Breakfast that the Rotary puts on every year on the day of the downtown Christmas parade.
He and his staff dressed up for all the holidays and he was famous for his costumes.
He has coached his grandchildren’s sports teams, reads in their classrooms, and can be counted on to support the many Rotary projects that serve our community.
The cover photo this month features his three grandchildren, George, 12, Susanna, 9, and Kannon, 3. “With George, I like to play all sports. We play basketball, soccer, golf, baseball and football. With Susanna, I like to shop. We love to walk into stores and check out everything from soaps, perfumes and clothes. Kannon loves to play in my special closet, where I have games, toys and puzzles for us to play.”
Fredericksburg takes its hat off to you Dr. Coker, and we thank you for the hours of service and fun you have contributed to our town.
Look for our January Difference Maker in the next issue. Send nominations to [email protected]