Mount Olivet Funeral Home & Cemetery

1101 Lebanon Pike, Nashville, TN


Dr. John Howard COLES III

September 29, 1927October 17, 2019

Dr. John H. Coles III, 92, a beloved doctor who healed and loved several generations of Nashvillians, died peacefully on Oct. 17. He died as he lived, in his hometown of Green Hills, where he so loved every person and blade of grass that he never needed to find greener pastures. The proud Vanderbilt fan took pride in being “a country doctor,” humbly treating “skin and contents,” including both broken bones and hearts, with his unfailingly polite and unhurried Southern demeanor and unparalleled compassion. Born on Sept. 29, 1927 in Protestant Hospital (now St. Thomas Midtown), he and his sister Betty were raised by their father, John H. Coles Jr., owner of Coles & Waller Jewelers, and mother, Mary Elizabeth Shelton Coles. John enjoyed many friendships with the neighborhood boys from the Monroe Harding Orphanage. Dr. Coles, who was nicknamed “Common” by his best friend John Grissim, was a 1945 graduate of Hillsboro High School, where he served as student body president and spent time with a class speaker named Minnie Pearl, the meeting of which was captured in a cherished photo displayed on his refrigerator until the day he died. Another treasured memory was playing on the school baseball team against East High at Centennial Park in 1945. His father, who hadn’t been able to see him play, walked up five minutes before he hit a double. He was a 1948 graduate of Vanderbilt University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in science and became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He graduated from Vanderbilt University Medical School in 1951. He then spent four years performing rotating and surgical internships at Baltimore City Hospital, where he delivered 104 babies in 20 days—“one in a cab, one on a gurney, one in a tub, one in an elevator, and one that was a surprise to the mother.” He returned to Nashville in 1955 to serve a yearlong oncology fellowship at Vanderbilt. He joined the U.S. Air Force on Jan. 5, 1957 and served for 730 days, during which time he was a captain and the base surgeon at the Chennault Air Force base at Lake Charles, La. When he returned home during a vacation in 1958, he stopped by an office on Glen Echo Road and ran into Dr. Anderson, who preceded him in medical school by a year. Anderson invited Dr. Coles to join him in his practice when he ended his service, an offer that he couldn’t refuse. He spent the next 35 years at that Glen Echo address, performing general surgery for two years before establishing his own practice, which he ran until retirement in 1994. “My favorite thing would be when someone would come in with a bent arm and I would straighten it out and he would go out in a cast smiling,” he said, recalling that he fixed daughter Lisa’s broken arm twice, numbing it both times, and daughter Lynne’s arm once, without any painkillers. Of course, his practice wasn’t limited to his office; he often treated people in grocery and drug stores aisles, or wherever they ran into him. He held surgical privileges at Baptist, St. Thomas and Nashville General Hospitals and served as physician and surgical consultant to numerous companies such as South Central Bell and was on the board of directors of the Green Hills Health Care Center. He provided disability evaluations for the Social Security Administration and held active memberships in the Nashville Academy of Medicine, Davidson County Medical Society, Tennessee Medical Association, Southern Medical Association and the American Medical Association. He served as the school physician for David Lipscomb High School, where his son attended school, from 1968-75, as well as physician for David Lipscomb College until 1980, and was team physician for Hillsboro High School from 1960-73. One of the Hillsboro freshmen football players he treated was Bob Clement, who later became a U.S. Congressman. “Dr. Coles put stitches in my chin and left me with a lasting, wonderful impression of his superior bedside manner and conscientious attention to detail,” Clement wrote in the Congressional Record. “You knew that when Dr. Coles was taking care of you, you were in the best of hands. He personalized every relationship and truly made you feel as if you alone were his No. 1 priority.” Those priorities shifted a bit following a blind date with Gloria Keel in 1987. He courted her for nearly a decade before the two married in 1996. Their children were delighted that the two found love later in life over McDonald’s salads, dinners at Ruby Tuesday and Easter driving trips to Dallas to see daughter Lisa. He treasured his friendships with country icons Eddy Arnold, Sarah Cannon and Roy Acuff, but also delighted in seeing his former child patients thrive as adults. He was a proud conservative Republican. He loved his Lord and was a devoted member of the Hillsboro Church of Christ. When he could no longer travel to church, Lynne brought communion to him. He remained grateful for the friendships and opportunities provided him by Vanderbilt and was touched when donations were made in his honor to the Vanderbilt Medical School Scholarship Fund. He retired in 1994, the news of which prompted patient Sara Roop to write in the newspaper, “Dr. John Coles is a giver in every sense of the word… For over 20 years, Dr. Coles has responded to my calls, some frantic with concern over a sick child, some simply seeking advice or reassurance. The ailment was never too minor, the question too foolish, nor the time consumed too excessive. Just talking with Dr. Coles was good medicine.” He was preceded in death by his parents and son, John Coles IV. He is survived by his wife, Gloria Keel Coles; sister Betty Johnson (Bill); daughters Patricia Lynne Coles and Lisa Coles Alexander (Clay); daughter-in-law Lois Coles Baker; stepson Bill Keel (Terri); stepdaughters Susan Keel and Beverly Keel; grandchildren John Coles V, Robert Coles, Barbara Alexander McPhail (Andrew), Clay Alexander Jr., Christopher Keel, Nathan Keel and David Steine. The family expresses their gratitude to his caregiver, Terry Brown, and Minister Randall Pardue. Pallbearers are, Clay Alexander, Clay Alexander Jr., Richard Hoen, Bill Johnson III, Steve Johnson, Jeff Grissim, Mitch Grissim, John Coles V and Tim Perry. Honorary pallbearers are Bill Johnson Jr., Robert Coles, Dr. Bill Keel, Robert Elkins, Robert Elkins Jr., Dr. Robert S. Quinn, John Griswald, Bob Clement, Everett Hunt, Jim Carter, Jim Williams, Bayron Binkley, Terry Brown, David Steine, Christopher Keel, Nathan Keel, Patrick Blair, Roger Prince and Charlie Burke. The Funeral service will be held on Monday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m. at Hillsboro Church of Christ. Visitation will be held on Monday from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Vanderbilt University Medical School Scholarship Fund and Hillsboro Church of Christ.


  • Visitation Monday, October 21, 2019
  • Funeral Service Monday, October 21, 2019


Dr. John Howard COLES III

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Diane Batson Wiegand

October 24, 2019

I am just so blessed to have had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Coles & his awesome family! I will never forget on my 13th birthday, my grandmother Eakin, & my grandfather Charlie took me shopping in Green Hills 4 a pair of earrings! Thank you God for my family knowing Dr. Coles or I might not have gotten my ears pierced! I will never forget how sweet & super gentle he was with me! I was scared to pieces! But.. with Dr. Coke’s kind & charming voice, I settled down for one of the happiest days of my childhood. He also patiently took time after my 1st bicycle accident to remove each & every piece of dirt & rocks out of my knee and elbows! 😮 Wow, what a wonderful Dr. I’ll never 4get how wonderful he was & how blessed we were to have him in our lives! May he Rest In Peace! I would also like to take this time to extend my condolences to the loving family of Dr. Coles. I had the most pleasure ever of my childhood in Nashville visiting with Lynne & Lisa! Lynne let me play with her horses & Lisa shared her dolls! Their Mother was also the best sandwich maker in the whole wide world! I was always so thrilled when I got an incredible invitation to visit their beautiful & loving home. Their Mother, Barbara was also the most stunningly beautiful lady ( besides my Mother Emma) in the whole wide world! Thank you Lisa & Lynne for being born! You made my childhood memories so very beautiful! In His Name, Love Always and Forever, Charlene Diane Batson Wiegand in Dalton, Ga.

Glenda Emery

October 20, 2019

Dr. Coles was our family doctor for many years, he was the best.

Marie Yavarone

October 20, 2019

Dr. John Coles, III, was my first primary doctor when I moved to Nashville, TN. He treated me like I was his daughter until the day he retired. He was a healer in so many ways: he always had time to listen, he never gave advice unless I asked for it, he was always patient and understanding. Dr. Coles did everything to help me get well when I was sick. He always called to see how I was especially when I had the mumps and pneumonia. I always enjoyed being in his presence.

My heart goes out to his wife and Lynn. I know he is at peace and in heaven. I hope he meet my mom and dad in heaven because I talked about him so much.

I have no more words..... my heart is sad. I lost a dear, dear friend.