Edward Coates

Obituary of Edward Donnally Coates

Coates, Edward D. MD, MPH Edward Donnally Coates, aged 85, died on April 5, 2021 at his home in Hannacroix, New York. Born in Akron, Ohio to Charles Francis Coates and Esther Lund Coates, he was raised in Akron, and Erie, Pennsylvania, and Glendale, California. Dr. Coates’ development and life as a physician spanned four phases, each one about a dozen years long, followed by a slightly longer period of retirement. Meanwhile he pursued diverse intellectual and humane interests throughout, and engaged vigorously, not only his colleagues and patients, but his family and friends, with what he learned and knew. Following Hoover High School in Glendale, California (where he was a standout varsity athlete and President of the student body and senior class), he attended Yale University, where he continued athletics, majored in biochemistry, and met his future wife. He went on to medical school at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. After his internship at Los Angeles County General Hospital (he described this as an indelible life experience), he enlisted and served for two years as a Captain in the United States Army Medical Corps, stationed at Fort Myer, adjacent to the Pentagon. He then completed a residency in Public Health, in New York City, while also earning a Master of Public Health degree, again from Columbia University. As a public servant he began his career as medical director of the Rockland County (NY) Summit Park Health and Social Services Complex, then a double-digits multimillion dollar facility that promised to meet the needs of the community through anticipatory planning for medical services, from primary care to mental health care, including addiction services, as well as hospital and skilled nursing care and public health outreach. Quoted frequently in the local newspapers at the time, he told The Journal News (Nyack, NY): "The job is even more exciting and challenging than I had anticipated." He soon thereafter accepted a succession of promotions within the New York State Department of Health, ultimately serving as First Deputy Commissioner of that agency at the time of his retirement from state service. Among many, many law and policy changes he helped implement, his successful efforts on behalf of recognition and certification of Physician Assistants (then a new, even visionary, idea) might merit mention. Dr. Coates moved from public service to a diversity of physician roles for IBM, in Kingston and Poughkeepsie, New York, San Jose and Los Angeles, California, as well as at the corporate headquarters (in Armonk, NY.) He recounted a time when corporate leaders had asked for his advice about whether to release a new product that contained a trace of a substance known to be a carcinogen. Although he recognized that they sought a health expert who would say (on the record) that the small exposure that could result would amount to 'but a tear in a salty sea,' he instead advised them to remove the material on the principle of corporate social responsibility. In his penultimate phase, still a capable physician, Dr. Coates embraced the cause of primary care and occupational medicine in the industrial heart of Los Angeles. This post afforded him proximity to actively support his own parents, then in their eighties. But the practice of medicine also gave him a renewed sense of purpose. He was proud to offer his experiences and abilities to care for and counsel patients whom he found to be hard-working and deserving people, often new immigrants to the United States. Finally in retirement he returned with his wife Priscilla to their 1830s farmhouse in Hannacroix, where they dug a new pond, remodeled the kitchen for a second time in over 30 years, and relished all kinds of outdoor hobbies, for example supporting (with their own labor as well as donations) local land conservancy projects, and supporting many pet animals (over their decades he and Priscilla kept pets far too numerous to mention.) Ed especially loved his farm tractor and the trails and grounds he maintained. He grew bored with crossword puzzles, contract bridge, and spectator sports -- each too predictable! In retirement he broadened his interests. Having read widely all of his life, he now described a new habit, “reading slowly,” meaning taking much more time to consider each page. He relished the time he had to delve into works of history and fiction, classic and contemporary. To the end Dr. Coates also maintained critical attention upon current events, including what he saw as the lack of an appropriate public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Predeceased by his parents and his sister Marlene, Edward’s survivors include his wife of 61 years, Priscilla Doig Coates, and their three sons and their spouses, and eight grandchildren -- Andrew and Lori, with Noah, Harriet, Evelyn; Stephen and Wendy, with Robert, Vaughn, Elliot; Charles and Martina, with Michaela and Stefanie -- as well his niece Donna Banta and her husband Mark, their son and daughter and grandchildren: Mark Banta, Jr. and his wife Meera and their children Keya, Maya, and Max, and Emily Banta and her husband Daniel. A memorial will be private. If you would like to honor Dr. Coates in a material way, please give to your own favorite charity.
A Memorial Tree was planted for Edward
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at A.J. Cunningham Funeral Home - Greenville
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