Obituary: Gary Cole |

Obituary: Gary Cole

October 27, 1946 – December 20, 2021

Gary Edward Cole was born October 27th, 1946 in Seattle, Washington. Gary was influenced early by what would become lifelong passions: music, travel, and sport. While at Ingram High School, Gary’s choir had the opportunity to do an exchange program with a high school choir in Kobe, Japan. This experience fostered lifelong friendships, the love of performing, and a lifelong zest for travel. He also took regular trips up to Stevens Pass with Frank Reinig, a close family friend, who instilled a love for skiing, photography, and nature in Gary.

After graduating from Western Washington University in 1968, Gary was drafted into the Army and served at Fort Meyer, Virginia. After completing his service, Gary returned to Bellingham where he began a Masters program in vocal performance, married Jana in 1970, and earned his Masters degree with an Opera specialty in 1972. At this time, Gary felt outside pressure to pursue a career in opera but instead chose to drop everything, load up a truck and camper with Jana, and move to a ski town for a year. The two found their way to Park City and Gary was hired by Phil Jones to teach skiing. That was the beginning of his time in Park City and one winter in 1972 turned into the rest of his life.

Gary quickly met some of the key players who were shaping the town, including Harry Reed, Bill Stevenson, Bob Wells and later Nick Badami. During the snow drought year of 1976-77, Harry suggested that Gary get his real estate license. Bill Stevenson, a ski school client who became a lifelong mentor and friend, got Gary involved in the Snowflower and Park City Village projects. These two early ventures with developer Jack Davis would ultimately lead to the creation of Cole Sport.

Gary quickly recognized an influx of new, out of state clients on the ski hill who had no place to shop for high-end ski fashion. Jack Davis asked Gary to open a ski shop to anchor the new development at the base of Park City. Gary had zero retail experience, but he decided to jump in with both feet and fill the void that he saw in the market. With the help of a local buyer and a designer friend from Seattle, Gary was able to bring his vision to life. Cole Sport opened with flair in 1982, blending Gary’s love for performance and eye for design. At the end of the ski day you could often find Gary bursting into song beside the baby grand player piano in the center of the store. It was like a piano bar without the drinks, a truly unique space that embodied Gary’s passion for skiing, fashion, design, and performance. For the next 15 years Gary expanded the business by adding three more shops in Park City, all of which have stood the test of time and remain today.

Gary’s deep passion for the visual and the performing arts extended well beyond his new business. He found his way into Don Gomes’ cast of characters who played characters in numerous community theater musicals that popped up in various locations around town. Audiences from the early 80’s remember him as Lancelot from Camelot, Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, Tevia from Fiddler on the Roof, and Bobby in Company. It was after a Company performance at the Egyptian Theater that he hurried home, still in makeup, to help Jana put the finishing touches on the cast party before heading to SLC to deliver her second son while the party went on at their house. Big brother Jason had been born 3 years before, already well versed in the life of the theater, knew the show must go on.

While his involvement in the arts evolved over time, he remained dedicated to their role in the Park City community. Again Gary recognized a void, this time in the arts community, and was integral in creating a performing arts center for the growing Park City community. He engaged in this passion project with Ann MacQuoid, Jerry Howells, Bob Richer, Robert and Heather Urich, and Teri Orr. The Eccles Center gave Park City High School students a real stage where they could shine and a world class venue that would attract internationally renowned performers. Gary served as a founding board member for many years and his family continues to support performing arts in Park City. Gary came to Park City for the snow and the skiing, but he always believed that it was the arts that made this a vibrant community.

While Gary’s roots grew in Park City, he never stopped loving the Seattle area and identifying with the Pacific Northwest. He bought a small house on Lake Washington, while looking at colleges with Jason, and it quickly became one of his favorite places to spend time and find peace.

He was tremendously proud of his sons and their hard work, always supporting them and their pursuits in sports, arts, and education. But in the end nothing made him more proud than watching Jason and Adam continue to run the family business in the Park City community that he held so dearly.

Gary is survived by his wife Jana, his sons Jason (Hattie) and Adam (Jess), and grandchildren Elliott, Blake, Cadia, and Theo. He is also survived by his sister Mary Cole. He was preceded in death by his sister, Sally Culliton, his mother Irene Cole and stepfather Cliff Cole.

Think of Gary when you’re making your next powder turns, listening to your favorite song, or experiencing the art that he believed made Park City so special. A celebration of life will be planned in the coming months.

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