Lives of the fellows

Richard Philip Kendall Coe

b.26 January 1914 d.22 April 1989
MRCS LRCP(1937) MB BS Lond(1937) MRCP(1940) MD(1940) FRCP(1965)

Richard Coe was born in Nottingham, the son of George Sizeland Coe and his wife Esther Lydia nee Litchfield. He was educated at Nottingham High School and studied medicine at Westminster Hospital medical school, London University, where in 1937, after qualification, he was a house physician at the hospital and then RMO in 1938. From 1939-40 he was a house physician at the Brompton Hospital before joining the RNVR as a surgeon lieutenant. His contemporaries recall him as an entertaining companion, an excellent mimic and a clarinet player in the medical mess music group at Haslar. From 1943-46 he was surgeon lieutenant commander and medical specialist in Malta.

After demobilization, he held registrar posts at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington and St Helier Hospital, before being appointed physician to the West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth.

Richard Coe remained, by choice, a general physician with a special interest in chest diseases and in the care and management of diabetes. He was deeply concerned with the efficient management of his patients, enjoying the act of healing and the contact with them. He was not drawn to academic medicine but enjoyed the teaching of students when the opportunity arose. His professional judgements were wide and practical and conveyed with both truth and sympathy to those who were suffering or disabled.

He served on hospital management committees and on the local division of the BMA. From 1953-84 he was medical adviser to the Eagle Star insurance company and at one time he was president of the Society for the relief of Widows and Orphans of Medical Men. He was also a vice-president of the Harveian Society of London.

Coe disliked affectation and bombast, preferring the unvarnished truth, and his views and conversation reflected this preference. He had a broad sense of humour and always seemed to have a new story to tell. His views on events were often sought by his colleagues for his comments would be both true and amusing - and often unprintable. All who knew him recall his memory with a smile.

Outside medicine, Richard Coe was a keen student of cricket and an ardent gardener. He appreciated good wine and food and was himself a skilled cook.

In 1941 he married Evelyn Tebutt, who died in 1947. They had two children, a son and a daughter. In 1949 he married Phyllis Joy Balston who died in 1971 after a long illness. There was a son of this marriage. In 1973 he married again, to Susan Irene Gane, and after his retirement from clinical hospital work in 1978 they shared several active years and travel until the long illness which led to his death.

Q J G Hobson

[Brit.med.J., 1969,299,255-6]

(Volume IX, page 90)

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