Remembering NorthShore Supporter Harry Coon

Through 40 years of growth and change, there was a very-much-appreciated constant at NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore): the outstanding volunteer leadership and generous financial support of Mr. Harry Coon. Last year, he passed away at the age of 92, bequeathing an unrestricted estate gift of more than $600,000 to NorthShore.   

       Harry Coon




Coon joined the Board of Directors at what was then Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in 1974, in addition to serving from 1961 to 1991 as President of the Owen L. Coon Foundation, which was established by his father in 1946.The Foundation’s mission includes the support of medical education, research and healthcare services for vulnerable and at-risk people in the North Shore community.

“He was always into helping those less fortunate,” said his nephew, Owen “Trey” L. Coon III. “If Harry saw something that was run well and he could do something to improve it, he would. Evanston Hospital, in particular, had a special place in his heart because he grew up in the area.” Coon was deeply involved as a director when NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital was opened in 1977 and took great pride as the healthcare system later grew to include four hospitals.

The Owen L. Coon Foundation established NorthShore’s first endowed chair, the Louise W. Coon Chair of Medicine, to honor Coon’s mother. The Foundation has supported several further such initiatives, including the Owen L. Coon Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery and the Owen L. Coon Chair of Family Medicine, said Richard O. Briggs, grandson of Owen L. Coon and current President of the Foundation.

“Harry was passionate about Evanston Hospital and now NorthShore,” said Briggs. “He believed in what the hospitals were doing, and his family supported him in that. He was a wonderful person, devoted to his family, and did a great job of leading the foundation—leaving a wonderful legacy.”

Coon’s niece, Lynn Wesch, said improving healthcare was a key part of a broad mission for her uncle. “He wanted people to be the best they could be. I know he paid college tuition for young people because he believed they could be better with an education. He once told me, 'We are all stewards and we just should care for things while we’re alive and not take anything with us when we pass.’

Coon and his wife purchased a home in the historic Williamsburg, Va. area that had been built in 1732. They restored the home and then donated it to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The couple also donated their collections of silver, pottery and porcelain to Williamsburg. Their collection of Audubon prints went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

A lover of music, particularly jazz, Coon played drums in the U.S. Navy Band during World War II. He worked with his father at General Finance Corporation, then at CBS in Chicago for several years writing jingles and producing local TV shows. He then launched a commercial music business out of his home in Glenview and built a recording studio in his basement, where he also was a shortwave radio operator.

“I enjoyed a lunch with him before he passed,” said his nephew, Trey Coon. “He had downloaded a piano app on his smartphone so he could listen to the music on his phone. He showed our daughter Maddie how to do it, and by the end of the lunch they were dueling pianos. She still has that app on her phone today. Harry was fun until the end.”

Harry Coon was fun, creative, curious, dedicated to helping people and a great friend to NorthShore.     



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