Jane Elizabeth Peter Coffin, 92, who designed the Calvert County flag and painted historic murals in the County Courthouse, died of pneumonia Oct. 26 at Mallard Bay Cove Center in Cambridge, Md., where she recently moved.
Mrs. Coffin, who had lived in Scientists Cliffs since the 1950s, designed the county flag in 1966 after considerable research, deciding on a green tobacco leaf on a gold-and-black field. She later urged revisionists not to toy with the design even though tobacco had fallen out of favor, saying tobacco was part of the county's origins.
She and her husband, Robert Morris Coffin, were commissioned in the 1980s to paint the murals in the courthouse, though she regarded herself as his assistant.
She was born to missionaries in Kuling, China, where she lived for 14 years. They returned to the United States in 1928. She attended Oberlin College and graduated from the University of New Mexico. She married a fellow artist on the top of Arizona's Window Rock, a 200-foot-high sandstone geological arch on a Navajo reservation. At the time, her father was medical director of the 11 hospitals on the reservation.
Mrs. Coffin and her husband moved cross-country to teach at Ohio State University, then to Cincinnati and on to the District, where her husband joined the Office of Strategic Services and the CIA. They later lived in Minneapolis but returned to the Washington area in 1951 and settled in Southern Maryland in 1953.
In 1954, the statuesque Mrs. Coffin was pressed into service to stand in as the Statue of Liberty on an American Legion parade float for a Calvert County anniversary celebration.
Mrs. Coffin taught and mentored art students, was a legal secretary and was a member of the League of Women Voters, the Calvert County Garden Club and the hospital auxiliary.
She was a founding member of the Calvert County Historical Society. She proposed in 1993 that a black woman become a member, breaking the group's "whites only" rule.
"They had sense enough not to have it on paper, but the attitude was there," Mrs. Coffin told a Washington Post reporter in 1998. "It was the undertone all through these many years. The church people and the people who ran the county wanted it their way. It took quite a few years, but I think they realized the time had come."
For many years, Mrs. Coffin was a member of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging. Her father, W.W. Peter, a Public Health Service physician, helped start the organization in 1958 and was its first volunteer. America's longest-running scientific study of human aging examines what happens as people age and what changes arise from disease, the aging process and other causes. More than 1,400 men and women are study volunteers, including 17 members of Mrs. Coffin's immediate family.
Her husband died in 2000.
Survivors include two daughters, Deborah Coffin Kennedy of Cambridge and Margo Coffin Groff of Swarthmore, Pa.; a sister; a brother; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.