Obituary: Gary Cole |

Opera theater


October 27, 1946 – December 20, 2021

Gary Edward Cole was born on October 27, 1946 in Seattle, Washington. Gary was influenced early on by what would become his life’s passions: music, travel and sports. 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 long-standing friendships, a love of the show and a desire to travel for life. He also made regular trips 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 enlisted in the military 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 received his masters degree with an opera specialty in 1972. Around this time, Gary felt a outside pressure to pursue a career in opera. but instead chose to drop everything, load up a truck and camper van with Jana, and move to a ski town for a year. The two traveled to Park City and Gary was hired by Phil Jones to teach skiing. It was the start of his stay 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 city, including Harry Reed, Bill Stevenson, Bob Wells and later Nick Badami. During the snowy drought year of 1976-1977, Harry suggested that Gary get his real estate license. Bill Stevenson, a ski school client who became a longtime mentor and friend, involved Gary in the Snowflower and Park City Village projects. These first two ventures with developer Jack Davis would ultimately lead to the creation of Cole Sport.

Gary quickly recognized an influx of new foreign customers to the ski slopes who had no place to buy premium ski clothing. Jack Davis asked Gary to open a ski shop to anchor the new development at the base of Park City. Gary had no retail experience, but decided to take the plunge and fill the void 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 its doors brilliantly in 1982, combining Gary’s love for performance with a sense of design. At the end of the ski day, you could often find Gary singing next to the grand 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. Over the next 15 years Gary expanded the business by adding three more stores to Park City, all of which have stood the test of time and remain so today.

Gary’s deep passion for the visual and performing arts extended far beyond his new business. He found his place in the cast of Don Gomes characters who played characters in many community theater musicals that have popped up in various locations around town. Audiences in the early 1980s 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 performance by the Company at the Egyptian Theater that he rushed home, still wearing makeup, to help Jana put the finishing touches on the actors’ night before heading to SLC to give birth to her second son. while the party was going on at their home. The big brother Jason was born 3 years ago, already well versed in the life of the theater, knew that the show had to continue.

While his involvement in the arts has evolved over time, he has remained dedicated to their role in the Park City community. Once again Gary recognized a void, this time in the arts community, and was instrumental in creating a performing arts center for the growing Park City community. He got involved in this exciting project with Ann MacQuoid, Jerry Howells, Bob Richer, Robert and Heather Urich and Teri Orr. The Eccles Center provided the students of Park City High School with a real stage where they could shine and a world-class venue that would attract internationally renowned artists. Gary was a founding member of the board of directors for many years and his family continues to support the performing arts in Park City. Gary came to Park City for the snow and the ski, but he always believed that it was the arts that made it 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 tiny house on Lake Washington while studying college with Jason, and it quickly became one of his favorite places to hang out and find some peace.

He was extremely proud of his sons and their hard work, always supporting them and their athletic, artistic and educational pursuits. 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 he held so dear.

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

Think of Gary as you make your next turns in the powder, listen to your favorite song, or experience the art that he said made Park City so special. A celebration of life will be planned in the coming months.