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Former Sonoco president and chairman Charlie Coker passes away at age 91

Charles Coker Obituary

Charles Westfield "Charlie" Coker, Sr.

May 10, 1933 - Jun 27, 2024

Charles Westfield "Charlie" Coker, Sr., 91, of Hartsville, SC, passed peacefully at home on Thursday, June 27, 2024.

Charlie was born in Hartsville, SC, on May 10, 1933, to the late Charles Westfield Coker and the late Elizabeth Howard Coker. He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 65 years, Joan Sasser Coker; and his sister-in-law, Sara Margaret Sasser Oyster. He is survived by their children, Ellen Coker Baldwin (Tyler), Charles Westfield Coker, Jr. (Sylvia), Carrie Coker Haley (John), Robert Howard Coker (Rhonda), Margaret Coker Hungerford (Earle), and Thomas Lide Coker (Marcy); 20 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren; brother, Fitz Lee Howard Coker; brother-in-law, George Freeman Sasser (Sara Jean) and many nieces and nephews.

Charlie attended Woodberry Forest School and graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Business School. He later received several honorary doctorate degrees and was a loyal supporter of education at all levels. He led fundraising efforts for the establishment of the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics.

Charlie was an accomplished businessman and worked his entire career at Sonoco Products Company. He succeeded his father as President in 1970, and later served as Chairman from 1976 until 2005. In addition, Charlie served as a director of Bank of America, Sara Lee Corporation, HanesBrands Inc., Springs Industries, Carolina Power & Light Company (now Duke Power), and was chairman of the board of Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Along with being inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame, Charlie was awarded South Carolina's highest philanthropic honor, the Order of the Palmetto. He was president of the Pee Dee Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and recipient of the Silver Beaver Award for outstanding service to Scouting.

Charlie's personal motto (which was adopted as Sonoco's motto) was "People build businesses by doing the right thing." Charlie showed every day that people are what matter in life. Charlie gracefully balanced the responsibilities of leading both a large business and an active family and treated everyone he encountered with dignity and respect. He was a true Southern gentleman with a witty sense of humor.

Joan was the great love of Charlie's life, and nothing gave him more joy than his time with her and being surrounded by their large family. The family is especially grateful for the love and support given to Charlie by his wonderful caregivers.

A funeral service to honor his life was held at 5 p.m. Friday, June 28, 2024, at First Presbyterian Church, with The Rev. Ashely Cheek officiating. The family received friends in the Fellowship Hall immediately following the service. A private burial was held in Magnolia Cemetery prior to the service. The Directors of Brown-Pennington-Atkins Funeral Home are caring for the family.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in his honor to First Presbyterian Church, 213 W. Home Avenue, Hartsville, SC 29550, or Coker University, 300 East College Avenue, Hartsville, SC 29550.

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