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For the week of August 22 - 28, 2001


Ketchum Mayor Coles found dead

Express Staff Writers

Two-term Ketchum Mayor Guy Coles, who helped guide the city through recent unprecedented growth, died late Monday night or early Tuesday morning of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 77.

Guy Coles, 1924-2001 
Express file photo

One day after announcing he would not seek re-election in November, Coles was found dead Tuesday afternoon at his Ketchum home on Edelweiss street.

Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland said his department received a telephone call from one of Colesí neighbors at 1:23 p.m. Tuesday, and Investigator Lee Edgerton and Lt. Mike McNeil were sent to investigate.

"We responded just to check on his welfare," Nevland said. "We found him on his back deck, deceased."

Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel said he investigated the scene for two hours Tuesday afternoon. He said he found no suicide note, but the evidence indicates suicide.

"The neighbors heard a sound (late Monday night or early Tuesday morning) but they did not recognize it as a gunshot," Mikel said.

Coles was "under care for several things," including a previous heart condition, the coroner said.

In the past three years, Coles has been hospitalized four times for heart and kidney-related problems. He recently survived his third bout with pneumonia.

"I look forward to riding in my final Wagon Days Parade with my granddaughters and then riding peacefully into the sunset come January," Coles announced in a press release Monday that he would not seek reelection.

Coles was Ketchumís mayor for eight years. On July 7, 1993, he was appointed to the office when ex-Mayor Dan Hamilton resigned in the middle of his term. He was first elected to the Ketchum City Council in November 1989.

The mayor lived in the Wood River Valley for 37 years since moving to the area from Gooding on Dec. 10, 1964. Upon arrival, he put his law enforcement experience as Gooding County senior deputy sheriff to use as chief of security for Sun Valley Co.

His local credentials were impeccable. At the age of 13, in 1937, he attended the first Sun Valley Rodeo at the red barn on Sun Valley Road.

Since his early days in Sun Valley, when he was raising his son, Kelly, in the old Colonnade on Sun Valley Road, Coles saw the valley change vastly. Throughout his term in office, he advocated planning for the areaís inevitable growth.

"The growth, controlled growth and the buildup that we have are amazing," he said in a 1999 interview. "People have arrived, but I think the growth has been controlled wonderfully by our planning department and city officials."

Coles was very proud of the cityís planning accomplishments and implementation of childrenís activities that came to fruition on his watch.

"He was very supportive of kids and recreation," Ketchum City Administrator Jim Jaquet said. "I think one of his proudest achievements was the skate park and also the recreation programs at Atkinson Park.

"We always had a close personal working relationship. He was a pleasure to work for. He gave you guidance, but he also let you develop your own thoughts and your own ideas, and he was very supportive."

In his press release Monday, Coles said he would miss working with city staff members more than any other aspect of his job.

"Ketchum has an outstanding staff, and I thoroughly have enjoyed working with all of them," he wrote.

Among public officials, Coles was extremely accessible and welcomed telephone calls to his Ketchum home. When health troubles werenít holding him back, he was quick to offer jokes. It was also clear that he loved serving the city heís called home for 37 years.

"It (being mayor) has been very, very rewarding," he said. "People I donít know stop me on the street to tell me that Iím doing a fantastic job. During rough times, I have received numerous phone calls of encouragement telling me to hang in there."

Coles was a World War II veteran who joined the U.S. Army Air Corps on Dec. 15, 1942, and was a member of the David Ketchum Post 115 American Legion for over 50 years.

City Council President David Hutchinson will assume mayoral duties for the remainder of Colesí term.

Coles is survived by his son, Kelly, who was expected to arrive in Ketchum late Tuesday, and two granddaughters. He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty.

Funeral arrangements are being made by the Demaray Funeral Chapel in Gooding.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.