Laura passed away peacefully at Ada’s Vineyard on December 15, 2017 at 77 years of age after a six month stay for dementia-related memory issues. Laura was born in Clarkston, Michigan on July 24, 1940, the second of five children born to William and Florence Terry.
Laura loved education and was very proud to graduate from Texas Christian University with a degree in English. After graduation Laura taught at Clarkston High School for one year before packing up and heading to California to teach at San Gabriel High School, a position she held for the next eight years.
In 1968, she met Roy Coats through a mutual friend and they married one year later. Laura took on the exciting task of raising Roy’s two daughters, Virginia and Nancy. Laura loved the challenge of growing close to the girls and helping them through Mayfield Senior High School and Ginny through college. Laura taught at Mayfield while the girls were finishing high school and she and Roy became trustees. While at Mayfield she provided a full year scholarship for those in need and continued this endeavor until the time of her death.
Roy and Laura bought a ranch in Creston, CA, just outside of Paso Robles, in 1978. They moved their business, Sunbank Electronics, from Burbank to Paso Robles along with thirteen employees and their families. The business continued to grow and Roy and Laura were able to build their dream home on Rainbow Ranch in 1980. Laura was active in Paso Robles teaching aerobics and delivering Meals on Wheels while also teaching English at Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo.
In December of 1985 Roy was diagnosed with cancer. He battled the disease for three years during which time he was able to sell Sunbank. At the age of 52 he passed away and, at his request, Laura established the Roy E. Coats Memorial Fund for the treatment and research of cancer. She continued to head this program for over thirty years.
In 1989 Laura married Thom Schulz, a retired airline pilot. The couple moved back to Rainbow Ranch to start a program for equestrian sports, including western quarter horses, show jumping, and three-day eventing. Over the next twenty-five years Thom and Laura supported the U.S. Pony Club, and opened their ranch for training, events, and rallies, always sharing the beautiful Rainbow Ranch for all to enjoy.
In the late 1990’s Laura and Thom hired two newly married Cal Poly graduates as ranch manager and barn manager. Their barn manager, Gina, started to ride a five-year-old Irish sport horse Laura and Thom had imported from Ireland. Both horse and rider were rookies at the time, but after ten years of competing, McKinlaigh and Gina proudly brought back the Silver Medal in Three Day Eventing to Rainbow Ranch from the Beijing Olympics.
Laura and Thom have numerous business interests but are best known for their philanthropic activities. They have donated to higher education, notably Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, TX, Cuesta College in Paso Robles, CA, and Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA. They have also funded two cancer research laboratories, one at UCLA and the other at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica. Laura was active in CASA Cornelia Law Firm in San Diego which offers help for legal immigrant children. Together, she and Thom have worked and donated to Wilshire Hospice, Foundation for the Performing Arts, Studios on the Park, Paso Robles Children’s Museum, and the Cancer Support Community.
Described by many friends as having a storybook romance, Laura and Thom never tired of holding hands, laughing together, sharing their love of life, and acting like newlyweds. Many have described the couple as being perfectly matched, truly a once-in-a-lifetime partnership of love and devotion.
Laura is survived by her husband of twenty-nine years, Thom Schulz of Templeton, CA; daughters Virginia (Robert) Ashworth of Eugene, OR and Nancy Coats of Denver, CO; stepdaughter Marty (Barinder) Singh of Grover Beach, CA, and stepson Mark (Mahnee) Schulz of Buford, England. She is also survived by her brother Glenn (Janet) Terry of Ocala, FL; sister Marty (Jim) Cunningham of Templeton, CA; granddaughters Elizabeth and Rachel of Eugene, OR, plus numerous nieces and nephews. Laura was preceded in death by her late husband Roy Coats; grandson Jason; and brothers William Jr. and Tom.
Laura loved life and lived it to the fullest, whether it was skating, water skiing, horseback riding, piloting her own plane, or helping countless youngsters with their homework. Her love for life was evident to all those she met. Her quest for learning and sharing her knowledge, guidance, and support with others benefited everyone Laura knew.
A most exceptional, confident, and classy lady, many qualities and mannerisms defined Laura. She was a breathtakingly beautiful, warm, and kind woman. Words of support from friends and family help paint a picture of Laura – she was encouraging, happy, funny, friendly, gracious, generous, athletic, strong, and compassionate. In a world of givers and takers, Laura was a giver of immense proportions.
Her sweet smile and the twinkle in her eyes will be missed by all those who had the privilege and honor to know and love Laura during her time with us on Earth. Her laughter, enthusiasm for life, and living life to its fullest remain with us. May Laura’s memory inspire all those who knew her to live better, love better, and appreciate every moment. “I thank my God in my remembrance of thee.”