In Jan. 22 Issue
By John ThompsonNews-Register
Danny Coffey recently retired after four decades as an agent for Shelter Insurance in Russell County.
"For 40 and one-half years I've served as agent in Russell County," Coffey said. "My dad (O.G. Coffey) had been an agent for about 30 but he sold his agency. He'd been out of it for four or five years when I started."
Coffey said he started a "scratch agency," meaning he began his own agency from the very beginning, cultivating clients through friends and organizations with which he was involved.
It was 1970 and Coffey was working as a highway safety officer for the highway department when he was approached to be a part-ime insurance agent with MFA Mutual Insurance Company, which would eventually change its name to Shelter Insurance.
"I really never thought about going into insurance," Coffey said. "I was working for the highway department at the time. The guys that were in town soliciting for an agent had stopped at Wilkerson's Oil Station. I passed and Don Wilkerson said, 'Right there goes a fella that might be a good agent for you,' so they run me down and said they'd like to talk to me about it. After listening to them I thought that it might be a good idea to do part-time."
Coffey never planned to work in the business very long.
"They would have these meetings to recognize agents who worked for five or 10 years and more. I remember thinking; 'My goodness that's a long time. I'll never serve that long'," Coffey said. "So after I got my 10 and 15 year award they invited me to come to the Missouri home office to be recognized for working 20 years. I said, 'well I know I'll never work 25 so I made the 11 hour drive. Then I ended up making the 25 and 35."
He would miss his 40 year recognition because of a prior commitment with DeMolay (a youth leadership organization sponsored by the Masons). "They've been really good to me at Shelter," Coffey said.
"I think I can remember the first automobile liability policy I wrote, the six month premium was $28.50. Now it's considerably more than that." Coffey said.
His personal policy was to follow the advice of his father. "Always be fair and honest with the company and fair and honest with the clients," Coffey said.
Coffey's office has been long established in the historically registered Masonic Lodge building on the square in Jamestown. Here he conducted both his insurance practice and also did tax returns on the side.
He will keep the office open through tax season this year when thinks he will close down to move his operation elsewhere. He then plans on working during tax season in the foreseeable years and enjoying his retirement through the rest of the year.
"I've traveled through 46 of the 50 states in the United States; I've got four more to go," Coffey said. Visiting all the states in the union had not been a goal of his until he'd reached over half of them, "then I decided why not try to make them all?"
Coffey spent 10 years on the Russell County Airport Board in the 1970s.
"We didn't really have an airport. We had a landing strip, a grass landing strip," Coffey said. They were able to get a 2,800' by 60' runway paved and lighting installed so they could be open 24 hours. The airport then was where the Lake Cumberland Dragway is located now.
Coffey was a flying enthusiast and became an instrument rated private pilot himself. A look at Coffey's bookcase and the numerous books on aircraft and pilots gives testimony to his interest. He gave up flying after getting married.
"My wings are clipped. I haven't flown since 1990," Coffey said, though he clarified that his retirement from flying wasn't due to marriage. "It just got so expensive. I couldn't really justify it in business and it just had gotten so expensive, too expensive a hobby. But I really, really enjoyed it."
Coffey said he does have some plans for his retirement, beyond the "Honey Do list" he says is waiting for him. He said he'll be more active in church projects, some traveling, and with the Masons.
Coffey has also been an active member of the Masons since he was old enough to join. He has reached the level of Very Honorable 33 degree in the Masons, the first and only Mason in Russell County to reach that level of distinction. He is a member of the Scottish Rite, the Shriners, and helped found a local chapter of DeMolay, which ran for many years. He remains very active in DeMolay and was asked to be the executive officer of Demolay for Kentucky by the Kentucky Grand Master Mason.
DeMolay is a leadership organization that helps instill leadership qualities in young men aged 12 to 20. "I think it's the world's greatest youth organization. I really feel that," Coffey said. "It's really great to see them come in at 12 or 13 years old and see them develop their leadership skills and speaking abilities. It teaches them through a number of well rounded programs." Coffey said he looks forward to working more closely with the organization.
Coffey said he looks forward to his retirement years.
"I just felt like it was time to retire," Coffey said. "I'm still fairly healthy and wanted to be able to enjoy some of my retirement. So many times you hear of people that retire and in six months they're gone, so I kind of wanted to enjoy my retirement a while. Hopefully I can."
Considering that Coffey has made plans to remain active after retirement, we certainly hope he enjoys many happy, healthy years of retirement.
When asked if there was anything else he would like to add, Coffey had only one thing.
"I'd just like to thank all my customers who have trusted me to provide their property and automobile and life insurance through the years."