Albert Coates

Albert Coates ( )

Albert W. Coates, a retired maintenance worker and World War II veteran, died March 17 of heart failure at Rock Glen Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in West Baltimore. He was 89.

Albert Wallace Coates was born in Harrisburg, Pa., and later moved to Baltimore. He attended St. Paul's School and enlisted in the Army in 1942.

Mr. Coates served as the driver of an amphibious truck (commonly known as a Duck) with Company D of the 812th Quartermaster Amphibious Truck Company and participated in the New Guinea and Luzon campaigns.

Mr. Coates fought in the 1944 Battle of Biak, which is on New Guinea.

According to a company history, 12 amphibious trucks from the 812th were assigned to the operation.

"This probably makes Company D. the first integrated unit in the SWPA [Southwest Pacific Area] and it was a happy occasion for all concerned," according to the history.

"Maybe that's why my dad may have received a Good Conduct Medal, which was issued to those who exemplified good race relations behavior," said a daughter, Jennifer L. Coates of Baltimore. "He would always say, 'You are not better than them, and they are not better than you.' "

Discharged in 1946 with the rank of private, Mr. Coates returned to Baltimore and took a job as a machine operator at the old Coca-Cola plant on Fort Avenue. He later went to work as a maintenance clerk at the Baltimore Stationery Co., from which he retired in 1989.

After retiring, Mr. Coates took a part-time job as an elevator operator in the Jefferson Building on East Fayette Street.

"He was one of the last of the white-glove elevator operators in Baltimore City," said Ms. Coates.

The longtime Reisterstown resident enjoyed sports and discussing current events. He liked listening to jazz and attending concerts at Lexington Market.

Mr. Coates was married for 54 years to the former Louise Ruth Hedgepeth, a Mercy Medical Center nurse's aide who died in 2006.

He was an active communicant of St. Katherine of Alexandria Episcopal Church, 2001 Division St., where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Coates is survived by three sons, Albert Coates and Alexis Coates, both of Baltimore, and Austin Coates of Conway, Ark.; three other daughters, Jacqueline A. Foster, Joyce R. Coates and Joceline Coates, all of Baltimore; a brother, Nelson Buchanan of Columbia; a sister, Regina Wallace of Baltimore; 10 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com