Obituary for Christopher Coffee (1978 – 2022) – Resident of Oakland, CA

Christopher Mill’s coffee
June 30, 1978 – January 2, 2022
Lives in Oakland, CA
Chris was born at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek; He was born 27 days early – full of energy.
Chris passed away unexpectedly with his loving wife Katie holding his hand. Although he left us too soon, his artistic, adventurous and caring spirit will forever be cherished by his family, friends, teammates and colleagues. Chris was so loved and respected and will be deeply missed.
Whether he was enjoying sushi with his son, watching sunsets with Katie, entertaining family and friends with his hilarious dry wit, designing a home for a client, working out on a volunteer training track in Cal Berkeley, biking with friends, or touring the sights of Europe, Chris lived each day to the fullest and shared his joy in the world with everyone who knew him.
Chris’ passion for art and architecture blossomed at an early age. He loved to draw and paint – especially in oils and acrylics. Over the years he filled his travel journals not only with words but also with pen and ink sketches of what he saw – from the Guggenheim in New York City to the winding streets of Paris and many cities in Italy. Regardless of the project, Chris approached every task as a handyman, whether building a bicycle, hand remodeling his own home, or laying stone steps at the Coffee Family’s cabins on Fallen Leaf Lake.
Mentored early on by longtime family friend and architect Joe Bologna, Chris began architecture in 2001 after earning a dual degree in architecture and art history from UC Berkeley. He gained experience during the summer holidays at ARG, an architectural office specializing in monument preservation. After college he traveled Europe with his younger brother Matt, sampling new and old art, architecture and design. He worked at Graff Architects for 17 ½ years before opening his own practice in 2019. He specialized in designing residential projects that featured styles prevalent in the Bay Area. His clients valued his ability to create beautiful spaces that balance the “diminution” between good design, physical constraints, zoning and building codes, and the desires of the client. His vision, curiosity, patience and even temper were unparalleled. Remarkably, Chris has never advertised his business; His clients came to him only by word of mouth and he kept a long client waiting list.
Chris’ design talents were complemented by his track skills. Chris’ passion for running began early at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Walnut Creek. Chris ran cross country and track at De La Salle High School and then “wandered” on to Cal Berkeley in his freshman year as a Division 1 athlete. Chris competed on Cal’s cross country and track teams for four years, becoming the Bears’ all-time top 3,000 meter steeplechaser as a senior. At the 2001 Pac-10 Championships, Chris finished sixth with a college PR of 9:02.31. In his senior year he was captain of the cross country team. Chris’ career best was 8:59.72 in 2001.
After graduating from Cal, Chris spent eight years giving back to Cal and his teammates as a volunteer coach. His calm, selfless coaching style – designed to build trust and perseverance – has been described as “Coach Coffee Magic”. Some of the athletes he coached competed at the highest level, including the Olympics.
Chris saw the joy of running and appreciated the friendships made on the track—from the Cal athletes who would go on to compete in the Olympics, to the youth and young adults he coached in the Special Olympics. Chris also competed in cyclocross for several years; He lived from the endurance of this form of cycling.
Without question, his friendships were long, solid, and extraordinary. In fact, he was introduced to Katie, his wife and the love of his life, by a runner he coached at Cal. Nothing could have been more appropriate.
Chris and Katie loved to travel – both to see new places and to connect with his mother’s family in Italy. His first trip to Europe was after college when he and his brother Matt spent 2 1/2 months touring Italy, England, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.
Chris wandered the Cinque Terra years later before joining his Aunt Margaret and her family in Umbria. He held a special place in his heart for Italy. Chris, Katie and Cenzo traveled to Italy four more times with his parents. During his recent 3-week trip to Paris, Florence and Emilia Romagna in 2019, he temporarily “gave up” his vegetarian lifestyle to enjoy all the Italian food he loved.
Chris enjoyed biking in the Oakland hills, especially with his 12-year-old son, Vincenzo (Cenzo). Off the road, they enjoyed the Oakland A’s, the Golden State Warriors, sushi, basketball, walking the dog, video games, crosswords, and movies.
Chris loved the ocean and enjoyed twenty-eight family reunions in Pacific Beach. He, Katie and Cenzo visited Sea Ranch several times a year with dear friends, Richie and Magda Boulet and their daughter Ama. They also took trips to Hawaii and Mexico with lifelong friends Greg and Rosemary Hintz and their children Christopher and Katie.
Chris is survived by his loving wife Katie and son Vincenzo (12); brother Matt and his wife Amanda; Nephews, Luca (3), Theo (9), Dexter (11); his parents, Pete and Angie Coffee; and many aunts, uncles, cousins ​​and dear friends.
Husband, father, son, brother, mentor, friend, Chris will be greatly missed but his memory will forever be in our hearts. His influence continues to be seen each day in the outpouring of love and appreciation from all who knew him. It is a valuable legacy.
Donations in memory of Chris can go to the Chris Coffee Young Designer Fund benefitting the youth of Oakland. Visit and select “Chris Coffee Young Designer Fund” in the program section. A celebration of life is coming.

View the online memorial for Christopher Mills Coffee

Published by the East Bay Times from April 24 to May 8, 2022.

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