Obituary: Dale E. Coughenour / Worked tirelessly for veterans

Nov. 10, 1946 - Dec. 12, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As a little boy, Dale E. Coughenour wanted to be a Marine. He got his chance at combat in Southeast Asia. In the 40 years since his return to Fayette County, the Vietnam War veteran devoted himself to helping other veterans, even as his health declined.

The Uniontown native died Wednesday at UPMC Presbyterian of heart failure after struggling with ailments that had left him disabled, said his wife of 24 years, Ann Crackovich Coughenour. He was 61.

Mr. Coughenour returned from the war in 1967 and was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease several years later, she said.

He worked as a journeyman carpenter and commercial contractor until his disability prohibited the work.

Don Burd helped him make his disability claim at the Department of Veterans Affairs and said he received benefits due to his exposure to Agent Orange -- a dioxin-releasing combination of herbicides the U.S. military used to defoliate tree cover during the war.

"I'm a service-connected disabled veteran myself," said Mr. Burd.

"Sometimes, it's hard to talk about things" such as combat experience, "so he got involved in every organization he could join to help veterans."

Mrs. Coughenour said her husband visited disabled veterans, even though he was on oxygen himself for the past 20 years. "He helped widows with their paperwork, and he put flags out at Park Cemetery on Memorial Day. He was just a great person who never got a lot of recognition because he didn't want it."

Linda Visnauskas' husband, Dan, met Mr. Coughenour when they both volunteered in a Toys for Tots drive, she said, "and they really clicked. We both became his friends.

"He was instrumental in bringing the rolling wall [a traveling Vietnam Veterans War Memorial] to Uniontown and was involved in all the parades. When a soldier was killed, he was always there at the funeral home to help the family," she said.

"If you needed to get in contact with someone, Dale always had a number.

"I broke my leg once and called him, and even with that big oxygen tank, he brought me to the doctor and stayed until my leg was set and brought me home and made me promise to call him if I needed anything.

"I feel like I lost my father."

"The best epitaph I can think of is 'Job well done,' " said Mr. Burd. "He was my best friend."

Mr. Coughenour attended South Union High School in Uniontown.

He served a four-year apprenticeship in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and received a diploma as a certified Journeyman Carpenter from the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and the state Department of Labor and Industry.

He was a member of more than a dozen veterans and fraternal organizations.

He was a member of St. John the Evangelist Church; a board member of Habitat for Humanity in Fayette County; a board member of the Fayette County Health Center Authority; and a member of the Fayette County Transit Executive Committee. He was also a special deputy sheriff of Fayette County.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a sister, Joyce Coughenour Oleen of Newport News, Va.

A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today in St. John the Evangelist Church. Interment with full military honors will be held in Sylvan Heights Cemetery, Uniontown.

Donations may be made to the Disabled American Veterans, P.O. Box 936, Uniontown, PA 15401 and St. John the Evangelist Church, 50 Jefferson St., Uniontown, PA 15401.

Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. First published on December 17, 2007 at 12:00 am


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