Obituary: Janet Coles
December 1, 1933 – January 11, 2022
Jan’s formative years were spent in Worcester and on Cape Cod with her parents (Benjamin Waldo and Ellen Barrett Ayres), her two brothers (Bob and Don) and her sister (Lois). As the youngest, she got away with much and bore the brunt of the rest, mostly at the hands of her brothers. The Ayres family held to traditions, so Jan followed the path of her mother and sister from Bancroft School in Worcester to Wellesley College. She graduated from Wellesley in 1955 and married Douglas Terry Coles the following year. Doug’s medical school training took them first to Montreal, where she worked as an elementary school teacher (despite marginal French language skills); then on to Hanover, NH, for his residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; and finally to Rochester, MN, for a fellowship and subsequent staff appointment at the Mayo Clinic.
Jan’s early years in Rochester were devoted to raising kids and establishing roots in the community. Chris, Scott, Bruce and Elizabeth were all born in Rochester. She was active with the Rochester Art Center and other civic groups, as well as women’s golf leagues and shuttling kids to hockey. When she and Doug divorced in 1974, she started working full-time at Sundance Outfitters, an outdoor equipment store, as a manager and buyer. Her work at Sundance Outfitters ultimately led her to seek the big leagues of the ski industry and she moved to Breckenridge, Colorado, in 1982. An avid skier, golfer and hard-core John Denver fan, she was truly “Far Out!” in her Rocky Mountain home. She was a manager and buyer for Rec Sports, as well as chair of both the Breckenridge Music Institute and Summit Foundation. She was an active member of Father Dyer Methodist Church. In Breckenridge she also met her BFF and travel companion, Jim Mikolitis, with whom she shared a winter home in Tucson.
Upon the unexpected passing of Jim three years ago, Jan pondered her final move. True to form, she went for the elevation and moved to Bend, Oregon, to be close to son Scott and his family. Her health was good and spirits were always upbeat – even through Covid. Her sudden passing was consistent with her general approach to life: keep things simple and minimize the drama.
Jan is survived by her children Chris (Deborah) of Miami, Florida and Breckenridge, Colorado; Scott (Heidi) of Redmond, Oregon; Bruce of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Elizabeth (Charlie) of Farmington, New Mexico. In addition, “Grandmerg” leaves behind eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. We also count the extended Ayres family, too numerous to list, as part of the survivor group that will miss the matriarch’s bright, engaging, accepting and joyful presence at future Cape Cod reunions.
A memorial service will be held in Breckenridge in mid-August.
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