Medical Tuesday Blog

William Kistler Coors, 1916 to 2018

Nov 26

Written by: Del Meyer
11/26/2018 4:28 AM 

Monday’s New York Times obituary by Robert McFadden for American beer pioneer William Coors (of the brewing company that carries his name) violated the usual tasteful norms for an obit, starting with the headline and the text box: “William Coors, Ultraconservative Leader Of Brewery Based in Colorado, Dies at 102.” 

San Francisco Chronicle reported that William “Bill” Coors, the former chairman of Adolph Coors Co. and grandson of the brewing company’s founder, has died at 102. Molson Coors Brewing Co. said he died Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at age 102 at his home in Golden [Colorado]. Coors began his career with the company in 1939 and was chairman from 1959 to 2000, helping it grow from a regional brewer into one of the world’s largest. He was also an official beer taste tester for the company and continued to taste test until his 100th birthday. After earning chemical-engineering degrees from Princeton University, Coors helped the company develop and introduce the modern aluminum beverage can in 1959. The company said he also started one of the country’s first employee wellness centers. Coors is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal carried the obituary headline by James R. Hagerty: “Brewing Scion Explored Paths to Inner Peace.” On the surface, William K. Coors was the golden boy from Golden, Colo. A grandson of the founder of Adolph Coors Co. , he was chairman of the brewing company for over four decades, until 2002, overseeing its transformation from a regional player to the nation’s third-largest brewer.

Less known was his battle against depression in the face of personal calamities. They included the choking death of his first son in infancy, the kidnapping and murder of his brother Adolph in 1960 and the suicide of his daughter Missy, who leapt from a Manhattan apartment tower in 1983.

Mr. Coors, who died Oct. 13 at age 102, recounts in a new documentary— “Bill Coors: The Will to Live,” directed by Kerry David—how he found solace through meditation and exercise. Eager to convert others, he opened a “wellness center” with the latest exercise equipment for Coors employees in 1981. Workouts, he figured, were better than health insurance, which he described as “a way of paying people for being sick.”

Like his brother Joseph, he was known for conservative views and provocative statements that spurred boycotts by unions and others. Yet his stances were unpredictable. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, aimed at preventing discrimination against women, in the 1980s. When his son Scott came out to him as gay, he was supportive. . .

He was an authority on brewing science but said he didn’t understand marketing. “We make the best beer in the world,” he once told Wall Street analysts. “We don’t need marketing.”

His grandfather Adolph, a Prussian immigrant, founded the company in 1873 and killed himself in 1929 by jumping from a hotel window. William’s father, Adolph Jr., was a “very strict disciplinarian,” the son recalled later. “We did things his way. Period.”

Sending 13-year-old William to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, the father had one piece of advice: “Now don’t get tattooed.” Young William was lonely at Exeter and crushed when a Latin teacher declared, “Coors, you are a crow among swans.” But the same Latin teacher befriended him, spurring him to win awards in that subject. He excelled at rowing.

He defied his father by enrolling at Princeton instead of the family’s traditional Cornell but followed the paternal order to study chemical engineering. He received a master’s degree in 1939. After considering a job at the chemical company DuPont , he succumbed to pressure to join the family company. His first assignment was to run a ceramics division producing insulators and items used in scientific labs.

When his first son, then 20 months old, died after choking on a bone, Mr. Coors initially coped by keeping himself “partially inebriated,” as he put it. Amid all the family tragedies, he said later, “I began to fail, became nonfunctional, wasn’t sleeping, had no appetite.” The family sent him to the Mayo Clinic, where doctors found nothing wrong with him physically. Mr. Coors concluded he would have to find his own cure. Shunning medication for his depression, he turned to alternative medicine and daily meditation.

Compassion for others was vital, he told high-school seniors in a 1981 speech, but so was self-esteem. He offered them an “11th commandment: Thou shalt love thyself.”

A crisis erupted in 1984 when he gave a speech to African-American and other minority business owners. The Rocky Mountain News reported that he blamed economic problems in Africa on “a lack of intellectual capacity” and said, “one of the best things they (slave traders) did for you is to drag your ancestors over here in chains.”

Though Mr. Coors said the paper had distorted his message, he apologized for “my unfortunate choice of words.” The company later pledged to invest $650 million in black and Hispanic communities. . .

In 1995, Coors joined the early wave of companies extending health benefits to partners of gay employees.

Still, William Coors remained feisty. “Will we keep quiet? Don’t bet on it,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1987. “Taking part in politics is a duty.” The Coors family, he said, was persecuted because “in this day and age it’s a sin to be a conservative.” When the author Dan Baum asked him for a tour of a Coors brewery in 1997, Mr. Coors declined, saying, “You wouldn’t understand it” . . .

Mr. Coors, an accomplished pianist who was married three times, found some peace in old age. He lived on Lookout Mountain above Golden and enjoyed watching wildlife roam across his 100 acres. He still worked out on a rowing machine past age 100, even when he required an oxygen tank.

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Categories: In Memoriam

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