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Annual Christmas Coconut Delivered to Peoria Man

December 21, 1992 GMT

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ Ed Clinch got his usual Christmas present this year - a coconut dressed in rouge, lipstick and a wig.

He still doesn’t know who sent it.

Every holiday season since 1948, someone has delivered the prank gift to Clinch. One year, it was an FBI agent. Another year, two ambulance drivers hauled the coconut to his door on a stretcher. Twice it has been delivered by the mayor of Peoria.

This year, three singing cowboys pulled up in front of Clinch’s house in a mule-drawn hayrack full of caroling children. They disembarked Saturday, burst into song and handed him a small, brown package.

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No one has ever admitted being responsible for the gifts to Clinch, a 77- year-old retired park worker.

The singing cowboys, who also are city park workers, told a tale of intrigue involving anonymous telephone callers and a veiled woman.

″Oh, they lie like hell,″ Clinch said.

Clinch believes the coconut conspiracy began with a group of his boyhood friends but expanded to take on a life of its own. His suspects are the son and daughter of one of the original pranksters.

One year, the coconut was parachuted in at an airport. Another year, it was brought to Clinch’s door by a Marine recruiter in full dress uniform. Last year, runners handed it off across Peoria like the Olympic torch.

Clinch suspects the choice of a coconut might have something to do with his World War II service in the Philippines. But he’s not even sure of that.

In any case, Clinch said he’s tired of just being the recipient.

″I’m the kind of guy who wants to be doing this to someone else,″ he said.