‘Heroic’ sacrifice celebrated in S.F.

Marlin Coats did not know the young brothers whose lives he saved before losing his own in the chilly waters of Ocean Beach last year. But U.S. Coast Guard officials want to make sure Coats and his heroic act are remembered far into the future.

In a formal ceremony on Yerba Buena Island on Thursday, Coats was honored for “extreme and heroic daring.”

But even as his widow accepted the Gold Lifesaving Medal — the Coast Guard’s top civilian honor — her status in the U.S. remains in limbo.

Coats was a newlywed on a Mother’s Day outing with his extended family on May 14, 2006, when he dove into the choppy sea after hearing the screams of two boys, 11 and 14.

The former lifeguard fought against the current to keep the younger boy above water until help arrived. The child’s older brother swam to shore.

Both brothers were unharmed, but rescuers found Coats unconscious. He died a short time later at a local hospital.

On Thursday morning, his widow, Jacqueline Coats, and his parents, Camille and Robert Coats, accepted the medal in his honor from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“When Marlin heard the cries of the boys, who were strangers, he responded as if they were his own brothers’ cries, because they were part of the larger brotherhood of humanity,” Pelosi said.

Jacqueline Coats, who accepted the award, wept as she thanked family members for their support.

“We are all so proud of him,” she said of her late husband. “Marlin, we miss you a lot and you will always be in our hearts.”

Jacqueline Coats’ grief was compounded when she learned just after her husband’s death that she could be deported to her native Kenya.

She came to the Bay Area on a student visa in 2001, but her visa lapsed two years later. The couple married a month before Marlin’s death and Jacqueline’s petition for legal residency had not yet been filed.

On Thursday, Jacqueline said her deportation is on hold thanks to a private bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that seeks to give her permanent residency.

However, until the bill passes, her future remains uncertain.

tbarak@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police investigate the scene of a police shooting near Varney Place and Third Street on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFPD shooting may prompt new body camera rules for plainclothes cops

What should have been an ordinary arrest of an unarmed auto burglary… Continue reading

Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference about a $12 billion package bolstering the state’s response to the homelessness crisis at the Kearney Vista Apartments on May 11, 2021 in San Diego, California. (K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
Newsom promises sweeping change in California’s $267-billion budget

John Myers Los Angeles Times California would embark on the most ambitious… Continue reading

Despite the pandemic, San Francisco has ended the fiscal year with a budget surplus. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Better than expected tax revenues leave city with $157.3M surplus for this year

As the fiscal year nears an end and Mayor London Breed prepares… Continue reading

Passengers board a BART train bound for the San Francisco Airport at Powell Street station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
BART bumps up service restoration to August 30, offers fare discounts

Rail agency breaks pandemic ridership records, prepares to welcome more passengers

Ashley and Michelle Monterrosa hold a photo of their brother Sean Monterrosa, who was killed by a Vallejo police officer early Tuesday morning, as they are comforted at a memorial rally at the 24th Street Mission BART plaza on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
State Department of Justice to investigate Sean Monterrosa shooting by Vallejo police

Attorney General Rob Bonta steps in after Solano County DA declines case

Most Read