William Grafton Coggins Sr., the owner of a hauling business that served the Baltimore Orioles for nearly 80 years and made pickups and deliveries of baseball equipment to four city ballparks, died of a heart attack Aug. 13 at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center. The Bel Air resident was a week short of his 96th birthday.
Born in Baltimore and raised in a family home on Greenmount Avenue, he was the son of Lawrence Eugene Coggins, who delivered ice and coal by horse and wagon. His mother was Stella Yeager, a homemaker.
Mr. Coggins was a graduate of Waverly Elementary School and began working for his father after he left eighth grade.
The Coggins family lived a block away from the old 29th Street International League Oriole Park. The family was friendly with Orioles owner Jack Dunn. Beginning in 1929, the Coggins family moved steamer trunks and equipment for the team. They initially carried the players’ equipment and personal belongings to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad stations.
He followed the team as it moved to different playing fields. He picked up and delivered equipment at the old Baltimore Municipal Stadium, at Memorial Stadium and at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
When the Orioles arrived by train at Camden Station in April 1954 for their first American League home game, Mr. Coggins and his father moved the team’s equipment to Memorial Stadium.
They also hauled equipment for the Baltimore Colts, but later gave up the contract. He regularly transported trunks for priests and nuns in the Baltimore Archdiocese.
The business association with the Orioles continues. Mr. Coggins’ children now operate the firm and still move the team’s equipment.
He met his future wife, Mary Ellen Cullen, at a Waverly corner store. He told his friends that she was the girl he would marry. They wed in 1949 and she died July 8. They were married for nearly 72 years.
Mr. Coggins also moved theatrical trunks for performers at the old Gayety Theater on East Baltimore Street.
During World War II Mr. Coggins was trained to operate an Army tank. He answered a call for volunteer truck drivers and he wound up delivering fuel and ammunition to the front lines in France and Germany.
Near the end of the fighting in Europe, his truck was converted into an entertainment vehicle. He then drove singers and other musicians who performed for troops. He was awaiting orders to be shipped to Japan when World War II ended.
After the family home in the 2800 block of Greenmount Ave. was torn down for the construction of the Waverly Towers shopping center in the middle 1950s, he moved to Reese Street where he kept his vehicles. He relocated to Bel Air nearly 50 years ago.
“My grandfather was active until he had a heart attack. He still owned Coggins Hauling, which still today transports the Baltimore Orioles equipment,” said his granddaughter Tammy Ann Butcher of Bel Air.
Mr. Coggins worked throughout the Orioles season and never thought of taking a vacation during that time. In November, he and his wife visited North Carolina.
WJZ-TV honored Mr. Coggins with a 13 Salute for his years serving the Orioles. He also received an Iron Man Award from the Orioles.
Mr. Coggins was a self-taught automotive and home repair buff. He was also a dog fancier.
“If something could be done, he could do it,” said his daughter Linda Sue Coggins of Bel Air. “He could fix anything, including the well on our property. He worked on tires and brakes, and was really good at electrical and plumbing too. Shortly before he died he had cut 2 acres of grass on his riding mower.”
Family members recalled his affection for Waverly.
“Over the years we would drive through Waverly to visit family homes and reminisce of the good times,” said his granddaughter Tammy Ann Butcher. “His heart never left Waverly. The community was made up of tight-knit families. If you were not related in some way, your neighbor became like a family. He was an extraordinary man and loved by all.”
Survivors include a son, William Grafton Coggins Jr. of Abingdon; six daughters, Rebecca Ann Butcher of Bel Air, Linda Sue Coggins of Bel Air, Catherine Faye Tingler of Abingdon, Ellen Louise Holl of Bel Air, Susan Marie Coggins of Bel Air and Mary Lee Weber of Bel Air; a sister, Vivian Kelly of Overlea; 15 grandchildren; 26 great-grandchildren; and 11 great-great-grandchildren.
Services were held Aug. 18 at the Schimunek Funeral Home.