“Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys….let ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such”. But, what if your baby is a doctor AND a cowboy??
The passing of Dr. Robert Ellis Coles on November 26, 2018 is announced by his daughter Christine Coles (her husband Dave and their daughter Phoenix), his daughter Melissa Flynn (her daughters Cypris and Jordis), his son Jonathan Coles (his wife Jessica, their daughters Andrew and Sawyer and son Jeven) and their brother Joshua Coles.
Robert, aka Bob/Doc, was born an only child at the Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe, Ontario on March 17, 1946. He is survived by many cousins, including Dale Coles who was like a brother growing up. He is predeceased by his father Henry Ellis Coles (January 1, 1923 Port Dover, Ontario – April 16, 2008 Calgary, Alberta), his mother Edith (Albert) Coles (March 6, 1920 Moosehorn, Manitoba – March 12, 2009 Calgary, Alberta), his maternal grandparents Fred Albert and Christina Margaret Aitken and paternal grandparents Charles Elgin Coles and Ethel Charlton.
Bob grew up in Port Rowan, Norfolk County, moving to Cambridge (Galt), Ontario in 1957. His father Henry Coles served in WWII as sergeant in B Company of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps in charge of radiator and tinsmith division of the vehicle maintenance crews from 1942-1946. Henry then went on to established North End Radiator Service in 1959. Safe to say this was the birth place of Bob’s lifelong love affair with cars, especially Corvettes (although his first car was a robin blue convertible 1955 Cadillac).
After graduating with honours from Galt Collegiate Institute and Vocational School in 1965 (where he pitched for the baseball team, was on the basketball team, student council and many other activities), he was accepted to the College of Optometry of Ontario in Toronto. In 1967 the school moved to Waterloo and became the University of Waterloo School of Optometry, where he continued his studies.
After four years of dating through school, Bob (age 22) married Gisela Oehne (age 20) of Preston, Ontario in June 1968. Bob graduated May 1969 with a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. Together Bob and Gisela set up his first practice after graduation at 111 Wellington Street in Preston, Ontario.
‘Go West Young Man’. And so he did… They sold their practice and moved to Calgary, Alberta in July 1972 to join Dr. Garth Mann at the Bonavista Eye Clinic. Staying at the then Siesta Inn for this first trip, Bob wandered next door to check out Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall, which had just opened months prior in April 1972. It is then and there a friendship with Harris Dvorkin, one of the two Ranchman’s co-founders, was forged. Bob’s love of a Wild West country lifestyle and his entrepreneurial spirit soon made this not only his Calgary Stampede home base, but an office of sorts through his career. (Mr. Dvorkin passed on April 20, 2017- just one week before Ranchman’s 45th anniversary).
Bob and Gisela’s first daughter Christine Anne arrived in 1973, their second daughter Melissa Marie in 1975 and first son Jonathan Robert in 1977. Bob and Gisela were divorced in 1979.
Gone their separate ways, Gisela brought Joshua in to the world in 1982. Giving him the Coles name, he became one of the four “Coles Kids”. Bob moved to Phoenix, Arizona from 1983 to 1987 with his second wife Carol and her teenage children Janet and Mark. Returning to Calgary, Bob and Carol were separated in the early 90s and later divorced.
Bob lived the rest of his years with his Good Hearted Woman, life and business partner Linda Babuik. They made many memories of shared interests such as travel (favourites included Hawaii and Las Vegas), country music concerts, rodeos (including of course The Stampede but especially the NFR in Vegas) and their camp ‘homestead’ at Riverbend in Okotoks. Linda’s daughters Tricia and Keri, together with Keri’s husband Jim and their children Trevor and Taylor (and Taylor’s son Sawyer), added greatly to the support and memories throughout these years.
His children wish to remember him as the smart witted, extremely intelligent, entrepreneurial, musically talented and charismatic person he was. He was an avid car fan, having owned more than two dozen Corvettes over his lifetime and no stranger to twisting a wrench here or there. He was musically inclined, playing guitar, banjo and singing. He was a quick wit and at times a prankster. He had a love for snakeskin cowboy boots, fishing (including Ice fishing), Disneyland, Canadian Tire, billiards of all sorts, Colt cigars, Vegas, Banff, Elvis worthy jewelry, dry roasted peanuts, fur coats (he has a long family line of fur trappers, including pioneering life long employees of the Hudson Bay Company), steak dinners, egg salad sandwiches, Stetson hats, big belt buckles, cooking, the country lifestyle and Christmas decorating among other things. He was certainly the only optometrist wearing pressed black Wranglers, cowboy boots and a Stetson with his lab coat.
In keeping with his wishes, there will be no formal service. His children gathered in Banff for a tribute the Doc would be proud of. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. He was one of a kind.
-Cripper, JR, Lissy & Josh
“He’s done some wrong, he’s done some right
Won and lost some fights
Highs and lows, that’s the way it goes
It ain’t always sweet tea
Lovin’, runnin’, son of a gun, like an old outlaw
But ain’t that country” -The Cadillac Three