Dr. Walter Cole, physician, horseman, mess cook


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Walter John Cole, who practiced medicine in both Canada and the Bay Area for more than 48 years, died June 17 at his home in Portola Valley. He was 94.

In recognition of his membership and participation in the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County, the organization named him the Outstanding Horseperson-Citizen of 2009. An article in The Almanac described Dr. Cole as a "dermatologist, cow roper, community benefactor and chuck wagon mess cook."

Born in Ottawa, Ontario, he knew early that his calling would be medicine, say family members. He volunteered to serve in the St. John Ambulance Corps at age 16.

He attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, graduating with honors from medical school in 1943. He later completed a fellowship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and began private practice in Toronto.

In 1942 he was married to Margaret Storey Hibbert. In 1948 the couple left Toronto for California.

Dr. Cole was first associated with the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, working closely with many of its founding physicians: Dr. Russell Lee, Dr. Blake Wilbur, and Dr. Esther Clark. He later went into private practice in dermatology in downtown Palo Alto. In the late 1960s, he consolidated his practice at the Stanford Medical Plaza, where he remained until retiring in 1991.

He and his wife, Peg, who moved to Portola Valley in 1961, shared almost 50 years together until her death in 1992.

When practicing, Dr. Cole began his office hours at 6:15 a.m. and he often made house calls, say family members. He co-chaired the Pigmented Lesion and Cutaneous Melanoma Clinic at Stanford Hospital with Dr. Robert Walton and established a blood bank program for members of the Mounted Patrol. He served for many years on the board of the Peninsula Memorial Blood Bank, was a longtime physician for the Stanford Fire Department.

An avid outdoorsman, his favorite pastimes included wild game hunting, fresh-water and deep-sea fishing, trail riding, and herding and roping cattle. Although forced to curtain activities in recent years, he continued to enjoy spending time with his hunting, fishing and riding partners.

Dr. Cole had a passion for preparing good food, often specializing in large-scale barbecues and crab feeds for the many groups he associated with. He loved to share his stories of the "old days" in Canada and the early days of the Mounted Patrol and Shack Riders, say family members.

In later years, he served as a board member for the Ronald and Ann Williams Charitable Foundation. Among fund projects he championed were scholarships for the UCSF School of Nursing, research grants for the Stanford Hand Clinic, and the ongoing support of the Aging Adult Services Department of Stanford Hospital.

He is survived by his sons, John Cole of Tucson, Arizona, and Timothy Cole of San Francisco; sister Connie Savile of Ottawa, Ontario; three grandsons; and two great-grandchildren.

According to his wishes, there will be no service. Memorials in his name may be made to Aging Adult Services at Stanford Hospital, Pathways Home Health & Hospice, or a favorite charity.

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