Robert died peacefully after a long and rich life, 1 day short of his 86th birthday in January 2021. He was born in Manchester, England, and attended Merchant Taylors’ School, where he won a state scholarship with a distinction in biology, going on to take his medical degree at the University of Liverpool. In 1958 he came to Canada, interning in St. John’s, doing an internal medicine residency in Halifax, and his dermatology fellowship in Montreal. His last years of specialty training were in Minneapolis, leading to an FRCPC in 1963 and MSc 2 years later.
His passion for mountaineering then brought him to Vancouver, initially to a research position in skin tissue culture at UBC. Robert was one of the first full-time clinician scientists in dermatology in Vancouver, with his work supported by the Medical Research Council of Canada. He later transitioned to community dermatology practice in Burnaby as a clinical faculty member while providing consulting services at both Vancouver General and Burnaby Hospitals. He became an expert in clinical hair disorders and also ran our pediatric hair clinic at BC Children’s Hospital. Robert enthusiastically shared his clinical expertise with residents and medical students, and we all marveled at his astute and meticulous attention to the morphologic details of skin lesions as well as his kind and reassuring manner.
For many years Robert was the only dermatologist in Burnaby, and many Burnaby residents were his patients. They might have been surprised to see him walking home through Deer Lake Park before the days of the boardwalk. When the lake flooded he rolled up his trousers and pushed on through the mud, carefully balancing his briefcase above it. After diminishing eyesight forced him into retirement, many patients still greeted him on the street. He remained the volunteer librarian for the university department’s dermatology collections, some of which he personally donated.
Robert’s energy, acute intelligence, and sharp memory led to many interests. He climbed many BC mountains, although the Cuillin mountain range on the Isle of Skye was his “spiritual home.” These roots led him to enjoy Scottish country dancing and do extensive research on his ancestors. Robert was an accomplished scholar of William Morris, the 19th-century poet, designer, publisher, and socialist, and published his own definitive book on illustrated editions of Morris’ works. That interest lives on in the Robert Coupe Collection of Works by and about William Morris, now in SFU Library Special Collections. Late in life, Robert expanded his inner horizons by writing five novels.
Robert was a man of principle, adhering to a life-long vegetarian diet. He also had a discriminating taste for fine wine and good honey. As in his professional career, he insisted on precision in everything, doing complex mathematical calculations in his head down to the last decimal point. Robert and his wife Rosemary were a perfect team in their large garden, she planting and he trimming back. He was a wise and kind father and grandfather. Many friends, colleagues, students, and patients held him in great affection and admiration.
—Harvey Lui, MD, FRCPC
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