Church deacon Cofer never meets a stranger

  • Saturday, March 9, 2013

He's held a wide range of jobs over the course of a generation, and despite being retired on medical disability these days, Kirk Cofer is still a man on the run, through volunteer roles around North Augusta. Members of First Providence Baptist Church largely know him as chairman of the board of deacons, with service reaching back about 30 years, just before the arrival of the Rev. Alex Pope, the congregation's senior pastor.Pope described Cofer as a family-oriented man of deep, Bible-based faith. "He has an outgoing spirit. He's very, very friendly, and very rarely can I say that he meets a stranger, because he's always open and friendly, and he's always willing to chip in and help wherever he can," the pastor said. He added, "He loves his church, he loves his family, he loves the Lord, first of all, and he loves his community. You can find him doing almost anything that's necessary to keep peace, happiness and joy within his church, family, community and neighborhood." Cofer, known to some by the nickname of Grover, has a tremendous memory for Bible verses," in Pope's assessment."He's very, very vigilant in that area, and he's also a great songster," the pastor said. "He's a very loving, God-fearing person," said Renay Thompson, one of his nieces. "I just love him." Cofer and his wife, longtime Richmond County elementary school teacher Sara, have been married for 35 years. She has joined him in retirement.The deacon's neighbors in recent years included the staff of First Baptist Church of Augusta, where he worked for several as a custodian, just before retirement. Leading up to that, he was a chemical operator at Halocarbon Products, "running the systems that make different products such as Freon, acids and oils," as he recalled it. Ken McDowell, one of Cofer's co-workers at Halocarbon, described him as "a good guy" who was well liked and had a solid work ethic and a ready smile.At First Providence, Cofer is also a leader with an anti-poverty initiative that is now taking its first steps, with a focus on improving the church's immediate neighborhood. Plans are to renovate a nearby home that has been donated after falling into disrepair, and offer a handicap-accessible house for transitional use by a family needing guidance and an economic boost. Cofer's background includes graduating from North Augusta High School in 1973, in the early days of integration."I basically grew up in North Augusta," he said, adding he went straight to work after graduation, covering plenty of turf." I worked at Graniteville Mill for a couple of months, and then I worked at Seminole Mill for about a month and a half or two months, and then I went to ... Clearwater Finishing Plant. "When I left there, I worked for bath Mill for about a year, and then I went into the Army." He enlisted with Uncle Sam in 1976, for a three-year hitch that he spent mostly at Fort Gordon, working as a cook. Next was a two- or three-month stint as a cook at Doctors Hospital, followed by another three-year stretch at Fort Gordon, also as a cook. He was then unemployed for about a year, with occasional "temp" service, including time at an Amoco facility in Beech Island, en route to another position in Clearwater, this time for four years, leading up to his work at Halocarbon. Eric Schoellkopf, plant Manager at Halocarbon, recalled Cofer as a man with a voracious appetite and tremendous physical strength."Grover was always busy working out in the plant instead of sitting in the control room. He was a man of hard work and few words; results, not excuses, which resulted in his promotion to the top-level operator at the company, and was likely also the reason for his huge appetite," he wrote. "He demonstrated his strength by accidentally ripping apart the thick Teflon lining inside a seized 6-inch plug valve by spinning the handle completely around in an attempt to open the valve. In my 24 years at the company, I have never seen this done to a valve. It must have taken several hundred pounds of force to move that valve handle." Cofer, on another occasion, was asked to help remove some bolts from a piece of equipment, after other employees had failed. Once Cofer removed them, it was discovered that they had been welded in place and he had broken the welds to remove them, Schoellkopf noted. "Coworkers nicknamed him 'The Tank,' and I for one was glad I never saw him angry or lose his temper. I would describe him as a gentle giant, and was glad to have worked with him," Schoellkopf added.
Pope said, "He's the kind of person that you would want on your team."

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