Agnes Marie “Honey” Coatsworth, a 59-year Malibu resident and founder of a local thrift shop and prayer outreach group, died Saturday morning in her Carbon Beach apartment. She was 85.
“She was the patron saint of Malibu,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ken Kearsley, a longtime neighbor and friend. “Not one minute was she thinking about anything other than helping others.”
Known for taking in homeless people or bringing them meals, Coatsworth worked six days a week at the Artifac Tree, a small thrift shop near the Civic Center that she opened in 1970 to help those who had lost all their possessions in a brushfire. Coatsworth was lauded by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan for organizing an emergency services center, which coordinated the donation of household goods, tools and clothing for the 1970 fire victims. What started as a Lion’s Club project grew into the Artifac Tree, a recycling shop, donation center and thrift shop.
“She had the biggest shoulders and people came into the shop on a daily basis just to be near her,” said longtime friend Katherine Carter. “Everybody knew they could lean on her big, strong shoulders.”
A native of a Pennsylvania coal-mining village, Agnes Kirsch moved to New York City and married George Coatsworth II in 1941. During World War II, she worked at an aircraft assembly plant. In 1946, the couple moved to Malibu and ran George’s Chevron. George Coatsworth later went to work as an art supervisor at Panavision, and wrote a weekly column for The Malibu Times in the 1950s. The couple raised three children in Malibu: George III, Merry Ellen and Cary. Honey Coatsworth’s husband died in 1987 and her son, George, died in 2004.
Lion’s Club International awarded Coatsworth with the Medal of Honor and she was named woman of the year by the Malibu Presbyterian Church in 1971. The Malibu Rotary Club gave her the Meritorious Human Service Award in 1989.
A circle of Artifac Tree volunteers sat under sycamore trees early this week, talking about the woman who in some cases took them off the streets.
“I knew her for 15 years and have prayed with her that long,” Troy Sylvia said. “She was such an honest, loving person. People called her constantly and she was always ministering to them.”
Kearsley and his wife were newlyweds when they moved into the apartment floor above the Coatsworths in 1961. “We didn’t have any money, they didn’t have any money, and we had a party every night,” Kearsley said. “They shared anything they had.”
Daniel Grady, who had been named to take over the Artifac Tree upon Coatsworth’s death, said the thrift shop would continue in her name. “Honey didn’t build this place for us to shut it down.”
A service will take place for Coatsworth at 2 p.m. on Jan. 22 at Malibu Vineyard.