The passing of Dr. Harris Coburn brought the community together in collective mourning, as they celebrated his life and achievements in their moment of sadness.
For the Daily News it took a couple of attempts to find the proper tone for the farewell, the first one on the day of his passing providing new reporter George T. Baker with a taste of the locals interest in the news, as the reviews of his first effort became the fodder for discussion with the htmf crowd.
The follow up report on August 13 provided a much fuller picture of the Doctor's life and his importance to the residents of Prince Rupert, the only flaw being that fact that the paper managed to get the date of his funeral wrong, an error which they corrected in the next edition on Thursday.
Below the collective group of articles on Dr. Coburn's passing.
Longtime Rupert doctor dies
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
A beloved son has left Prince Rupert.
Dr. Harris Coburn, the long tie doctor at the Greene Clinic on McBride St., has passed away after a battle with an illness no Monday.
The doctor, who had conquered many golf courses and cared for many of Prince Rupert’s ill, could not conquer his own illness.
But he fought as long as possible.
Coburn was an avid golfer and took part in many tournaments over the years including one last summer when he shot a 70 at during the men’s day tournament.
No announcement has been made regarding funeral arrangements.
Farewell to a good doctor
Family and friends remember the life of Dr. Harris Coburn
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Pages one and three
Victory Prystay remembered the day he and his quiet and patient friend Dr. Harris Coburn went on a hunt for grouse and came up a little short. It was a typical hunt but it was a good indication of the kind of hunters the pair were.
The grouse they were hunting are notoriously difficult to spot – though not difficult to kill if you are a good shot.
“We were driving up a dirt road and Harris said ‘Stop!’ and jumped out of my truck,” recounted Prystay. “He fired three shots and I asked what he hit.
“It’s a rock,’ he shouted.”
It was the kind of statement that would come from the understated doctor.
Dr. Harris Coburn died Monday after an eight-month battle with cancer at age 61.
He was well known in Prince Rupert and the city that he called home for 34 years might never forget him.
Born in Downkilpatrick, Northern Ireland to Protestant parents, Dr. Coburn made the decision to immigrate to Canada and washed ashore in Prince Rupert in 1974.
It was here in the City of Rainbows that he treated many of the cities sick and hurt with the compassion and care that a man normally leaves solely for his family.
“He was a very caring and was always interested in the patient behind the patient,” said the Green Clinic’s Dr. Herman Greeff.
Greeff is now the only doctor at Dr. Coburn’s Greene Clinic on McBride St. and joined the team there mainly because of the quality person Dr. Coburn was.
“It was his demeanour,” recalled Greeff.
“I did a locum (standing in) in Prince Rupert in 2002 and met him then and easily became good friends. When he told me that he had lost a doctor moving to another city I told him that I would like to take that spot.
“He told me: “Well, we’ll have a space waiting for you,”
Greene Clinic became one of Dr. Coburn’s many passions and he did everything he could to make it the clinic that is today, said Greeff.
He was the first person to bring in a full nurse practitioner, Toby Hilton, to a B. C. clinic, preferring to have someone with medical experience help him out on medical treatments.
According to Greeff losing Coburn is a huge loss to the clinic and himself.
Greeff became close friends over the years with Coburn and soon his family became good friends with the Coburn family, giving Greeff an insight to how he was around his family. “He was a great family man who could balance his work and hobbies like golf and hunting and still manage to empty his inbox everyday.”
In fact, outside of his enormous contribution to north coast health, his passion lied wherever nature and golf holes could be conquered. Coburn took great joy in travelling up the Skeena River and trying to hunt grouse and ducks. He matched that exuberance with trying to hit the 18th hole.
“As a golfer from Ireland, he brought a love of golf to the links and he encouraged our guys to play the game properly,” said Moe Hays, golf pro for the Prince Rupert Golf Club and a former patient of DrCoburn’s. “He was a fun guy at the golf course too. He brought so much revelry from the first tee to the ‘19th’ hole, brining the spirit of golf and social aspect of the game.”
Even if he was quiet he had no problem being social. Hays said the thing he learned most about life from Coburn was how much doctors in general care about the communities they work in.
“This man will be missed in the community.”
Mayor Herb Pond, adding to the eulogies, said: “His work is no small feat. His work as an advocate in the northern health care system to ensure our care was up to snuff was vital.”
His wife, Sara Coburn, agreed that not only was he a good doctor, husband and father but it was the way he was a good doctor, husband and father. His compassionate persona allowed him to show patience that most people can’t.
“He was interested in people,” said Coburn. “He took quite a cultural interest in his patients. Even though he was a quiet man, if they were from India he would ask where they were from and then Google Earth-searched that place to learn more about his patient’s background.”
During his battle, Coburn flew husband to-and-from Vancouver for treatment and what kept her strong was even when it looked the bleakest and he was kept at home. Dr. Coburn stayed calm and quiet. It was just the way he was, understated to the last moment.
As for Dr. Greeff, he measured Dr. Coburn’s legacy not just by his personal traits but by the challenge he has left behind.
“I don’t think there is someone left behind that can fill his shoes in Prince Rupert. He was an icon. He was here 34 years and it will take another doctor at least another 24 years before someone has an effect like him.”
But that was almost too overstated for a man who did not enjoy the hunt so much for the kill but for the ambiance; who preferred the hush of the dusk sky to the roar of a good conversation.
When asked if he had anything further to add, Prystay said: “Words fail me.”
There will be a service for Dr. Harris Coburn at the Prince Rupert Catholic Church on 5th Ave. on Thursday.
The Daily News
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The funeral for Dr. Harris Coburn is on Monday, August 18 at the Prince Rupert Catholic Church not Thursday, August 14 as it was previously reported. The Daily News apologizes for the error.