Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
BRACEBRIDGE — If Bracebridge is the Heart of Muskoka, Don Coates was the heart of Bracebridge.
The boy who grew up in town and became its mayor loved his community like few others.
He helped bring a provincial hockey championship to town and brought recycling to Muskoka as owner and founder of Muskoka Containerized Services, which is now owned and operated by Waste Management through its contract with the District of Muskoka.
And while his civic, business and political accomplishments speak forthselves — with his imprints stamped indelibly throughout his hometown — it was his work with dyslexic kids that he took much pride in his retirement years.
Coates died Saturday, at age 76, after suffering a sudden brain haemorrhage at his Hwy. 118 home last Friday afternoon.
He was rushed to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital, where he passed away surrounded by his wife, Helen, and his family the following day, his sister, Janice Boyes, told MuskokaTODAY.com Tuesday.
She called her brother’s death “a big shock” to the family.
He was “a most wonderful man, amazing” she said. “Very active in the community right to the end.
“Always looking to help people.”
Lifelong friend Ken Veitch knew him well.
“I worked with him all my life, one way or the other,” said the former town clerk who retired in 1996.
They grew up together and were involved over decades in most aspects of town.
Coates first served as district councillor from 2003 to 2006 and was mayor from 2006 to 2010.
“He could have won again, if he wanted to run,” said Veitch.
“Don Coates was a passionate supporter of Bracebridge and he maintained a great respect for the history and traditions of the town,” said a release from the town Monday.
“Don’s involvement in the community extended well beyond his service on town and district councils. His support for community organizations, sporting groups and his church have had a very positive impact on Bracebridge and all of Muskoka.”
Said Mayor Graydon Smith: “Don was a mentor and friend. Most importantly, he was a person who made a positive difference in the lives of many.”
Among other things, Coates guided the development of Peake Fields at Verena Acres, and strongly advocated for the development of the Bracebridge Sportsplex and the Rene M. Caisse Theatre, added the town’s release.
He also supported the expansion of affordable housing, hospital and the Georgian College and former Nipissing University in the community.
“Mayor Coates was respected by his council colleagues and by staff at both the town and district levels for commitment to the community and his hard work on behalf of the town and the entire Muskoka region,” said retiring Bracebridge CAO John Sisson.
Flags at all town facilities have been lowered to half-staff in Coates’ memory.
“He will truly be missed by all those who had the privilege of knowing and working with him,” said Smith.
“On behalf of the council and staff of the Town of Bracebridge, I offer sincere condolences to (his wife) Helen, Don’s family and all of his many friends.”
Veitch said Coates was instrumental in bringing a dyslexic classroom to Bracebridge in recent years.
The two Scottish Rite and Masonic Lodge members took turns co-chairing the school, which provides extra-curricular tutoring, instruction and mentoring for four students.
Coates, a 33rd degree member of the Scottish Rite (its highest order), and a board member of its Barrie charitable foundation, convinced them to fund the satellite school in Bracebridge.
Coates’ father, Glen (who also mayor 50 years before), along with Archie Fowler and Ralph Boothby founded Fowler Construction in 1949.
The family were also strong Conservative supporters.
Coates also stayed in touch with many of his old juvenile championship hockey teammates, re-united with them for reunions.
The family will receive the public Monday, Dec. 30, from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Reynolds Funeral Home, following a Masonic service at 6 p.m.
A celebration will take place Jan. 11 at Pinegrove Fellowship Church, 295 Taylor Road, at 1:30 p.m.
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