Doug Coe
Oct. 20, 1928 – Feb. 21, 2017

For a life of worldwide influence, it’s hard to beat that of Doug Coe, former Young Life staff who is now at home with his Sa​vior. His quiet mentoring and discipleship over the last seven decades transformed lives as vari​ed as those of high school kids to every U.S. president since Eisenhower.

Coe joined Young Life staff in the early ’50s and proceeded to run, according to the June 1954 edition of Young Life magazine, the “biggest club in the country” at Salem High School in Salem, Oregon. “The Salem club hit a record-breaking high this year with 452 in attendance. Leading that many high school kids is two or three full time jobs.”

Coe moved to Washington, D.C., in 1959, where he worked for nearly 60 years with International Christian Leadership (later known as the Fellowship, and now the International Foundation). Working behind the scenes he brought together members of the House and Senate for small group prayer, counsel and fellowship. He also played a major role in organizing the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

In July 1980, Coe hosted the presidents of Young Life and Youth for Christ, Bob Mitchell and Jay Kesler respectively, to discuss the idea of a joint ministry to military youth. That meeting proved historic in both organizations as it gave birth to the military ministry known today as Club Beyond®.

Coe’s ties with Young Life are also familial. Among his six children are Debbie and Paula, which means he was the father-in-law to Doug Burleigh, former Young Life president, and Lee Corder, the mission’s senior vice president of International Initiatives. Burleigh shared this memory of Coe:

“When I was getting ready to marry his daughter 43 years ago, he told me, ‘Doug, invest your life in things that are eternal — I can think of two: a love relationship with Jesus Christ and relationships with family and friends in Christ. Ten thousand years from now, these things will matter.’ (I was 29 then and now I’m almost 72 and was he ever right.)”

Jerome “Jerry” Lewis
Aug. 12, 1927 – Nov. 27, 2016

Jerry Lewis was beloved in Young Life for his Christlike character, his tremendous generosity and hospitality. He and his wife, Martha Dell, who preceded him in death in 2014, were fixtures in the national urban work as well as at home in Denver.

Beginning in the 1960s, the two were intimately involved with Young Life. Lewis was a member of Young Life’s Board of Trustees from 1977-1981 and 1983-1988. He was elected to trustee emeritus in 2001.

Verley Sangster, the mission’s urban vice president in the 1970s and ’80s, said, “Bob Mitchell formed the first National Urban Committee to the board of trustees and Lewis served as the chairman. His leadership and generosity helped develop ‘Outreach ’80s,’ a fundraising campaign for training urban staff and developing training centers in Jacksonville, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. Over the years this training led to thousands of kids from urban communities meeting Jesus. Lewis once told me, ‘My gift was making money to support those who had the gift of ministry.’”

Jerry and Martha Dell also donated their home to be used as a gathering place for discussion and renewal. Every year more than 40 ministries and hundreds of followers of Jesus utilize the grounds of the “Downing House” for directed retreats and spiritual formation gatherings. Whenever Jerry or Martha Dell were approached with requests for counseling or hospitality, the answer was always “yes.”

Longtime staff Don Reeverts said about his friend of more than 40 years, “Jerry was tenacious and determined. He wanted to obediently follow Jesus and be generous in his finances and the use of his home. He and Martha Dell were superstars who lived to help and encourage people.”

Thousands throughout the mission of Young Life will miss Jerry Lewis, whom Reeverts called “a man of character, a man of his word, a man with a great heart for his Lord.”

Linnea Marjorie “Marge” Stone Petersen
Aug. 30, 1925 – Nov. 30, 2016

It’s no stretch to say Marge Petersen is a historic figure in the mission. Touching countless lives while serving on staff for 15 years, she continued to influence and inspire many others when she became the first woman elected to Young Life’s Board of Directors.

In 1952, Stone came on staff in Knoxville, Tennessee, serving there until she transferred to Wheaton College four years later. Here she worked in the Chicago Women’s ministries, eventually becoming the associate dean of women in 1960. During this time she led under future president, Bill Starr. “Marge was a very gracious lady,” Starr said. “She was my right arm and a tremendous producer for Young Life in our ministry."

Stone transferred in 1964 to Berkley, California, where she finished her time on staff. In 1968, she married Hugh Petersen; four years later, the Young Life Board of Directors elected her to serve on the board, a role she faithfully carried out for the next three years.

Ted Johnson, who serves in Young Life Development, said, “I have known Marge and Hugh for 35 years, back to my Santa Barbara days. ‘Gracious, generous, wise and a lot of fun’ — that was Marge! She made a wide mark with her life.”

Will Wyatt
Sept. 2, 1928 – Jan. 27, 2017

Will Wyatt was truly a pioneer in Young Life. Along with his wife, Betty, he purchased the property that became Wilderness Ranch, and also helped start Young Life’s Silver Dollar City Discipleship Experience (now known as Discipleship Focus).

Since 1952, Wyatt wore many hats in the mission: head wrangler at Frontier Ranch, volunteer leader, area director, committee member, just to name a few.

After purchasing the Lake Cliff Dude Ranch near Creede, Colorado, in 1970, the Wyatts dreamt aloud with Bob and Claudia Mitchell about introducing kids to wilderness camping, while also training them up in their faith. Young Life soon began adventure camping at the newly named Wilderness Ranch, which still provides kids with life-changing experiences today.

Later, the couple felt the Lord leading them to develop a program where students could live in community, study the Word and live out their faith in a paid work setting. The Silver Dollar City amusement park in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains proved to be ideal for the endeavor.

In 1977, 30 college students began the inaugural program, serving at the park while learning deep biblical truths from the Wyatts and others. The results were obvious. “It is one of the best leadership training experiences I’ve ever seen,” said Mitchell, Young Life’s president at the time.