John Leland Coles, age 85, of Evanston, died on Nov. 8 at Evanston Regional Hospital after a brief illness.
John was born Dec. 15, 1927 in Evanston to Fred and Elizabeth Morrow Coles. He was the second youngest of six children and grew up working on his father’s Almy ranch and attending Evanston schools.
Jack played basketball and football for Evanston High, played trumpet in the band and participated in drama. He graduated in 1945 from Evanston High School and attended the University of Wyoming for one semester before joining the U.S. Army. He served at Fort Lee, Va., and Camp Stoneman, Calif.
Following his honorable discharge from the military, John went back to the University of Wyoming where he was a member of Phi Epsilon Kappa honor society. It was there that he met Beverly Nichols. Through their college days, they loved dancing to the big band orchestras that played in Laramie. Their special song was “Stardust” by Artie Shaw. John graduated with honors with a degree in Physical Education in June 1950. He and Beverly were married in Cheyenne on Oct. 15, 1950.
John and his city-girl bride moved out to the Coles family ranch in Almy. Their first home was a two-room bunkhouse with no plumbing. Within a few years, with the help of extended family, they built their own home on the ranch. From the ranch, John and Bev raised cattle and a family of five children.
By correspondence course, John received his teaching certificate with an endorsement in special education from Utah State University and began teaching at the Wyoming State Hospital in the adolescent unit.
He ranched in the morning and traveled to Evanston to teach in the afternoons and evenings. In 1968 the family moved to Evanston and into the house where John was born. In 1970 the family leased the ranch to a neighbor and John put his full energy into teaching.
John nurtured his love for the outdoors by taking a summer job with the U.S. Forest Service. He worked at the Wasatch Ranger station for many years, doing everything from fighting fires to cleaning outhouses. One special summer, he was assigned to patrol in the wilderness areas on horseback. John and Beverly spent their summers in a camp trailer at Stillwater Campground in the Uintas and in 1983, after he retired from teaching they bought a cabin at Manor Lands.
After his retirement, John continued working for the Forest Service. He and Bev worked together at the Wasatch Ranger Station in the summers and they could be seen riding the Forest Service float during the Cowboy Days Parade, with John standing in as Smokey the Bear.
The two traveled a great deal together during the 1980s and 1990s. They especially loved cruises. Their many voyages gave them new friends with whom they stayed in touch through the years.
When Bev’s health no longer allowed them to go to the mountains or on cruises, they bought a townhouse in Mesquite, Nev., where they spent their winters. They enjoyed the warmer weather and managed to find time to support some of the local slot machines.
Back in Evanston during the rest of the year, John kept busy supporting his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in their community and school activities and looking after the family home. Even when he couldn’t get on a horse any longer, John enjoyed firing up the John Deere tractor to mow the lawn.
John was a lifelong member of the Union Presbyterian Church, where he often served as elder. He was active in Evanston Masonic Lodge #4 A.F.&A.M., Esher Chapter #9 Order of the Eastern Star and as an Associate Guardian for Bethel #19, International Order of Job’s Daughters. He was a member of the Korein Shrine and supported the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake as well as the work and activities surrounding Urban Renewal and the Evanston Renewal Ball.
John is survived by his wife, Beverly; his children and their spouses, Deborah Griffith of Evanston, Jackie and Terry Dean of Green River, Doreen and Eugene Platt of Evanston, Fred and Jill Coles of Evanston and Connie and Warren Weber of Bothell, Wash., 23 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, sister Beverly Coleman, of Grand Junction, Colo., and many treasured nieces and nephews, as well as his beloved dog, Goldie.
He was preceded in death by his parents, sisters Mildred Gunn and Agnes Whittaker, brothers Fred Coles and E.T. “Bud” Coles and son-in-law William H. Griffith.
A visitation was held at Crandall Funeral Home on Thursday, Nov. 14. A memorial service and celebration of John’s life will be held at the Evanston Machine Shop on Friday, Nov. 15 at 1:30 p.m.
John’s family requests that donations honoring his memory be made to Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake.
John was a man who quietly demonstrated how to live a good life simply by living his own. He was generous with his resources, but never in a conspicuous way. When something needed to be done, he did it, without fanfare or fuss, and usually without being asked. He went about his life with humility and dignity, never calling attention to himself, and yet his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren learned the value of hard work and the importance of family from his example.
He never stopped, never complained, always persevered.