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Roger William Coleman

1929 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Roger William Coleman Obituary
March 30, 1929 - March 18, 2017 Roger W. Coleman passed away on Saturday, March 18, 2017, surrounded by family and close friends at his home in Carmel, California. He was less than two weeks from his 88th birthday. He was born on March 30, 1929, in Newark, New Jersey. His parents were Bernard Simpson Coleman and Evelyn Bornstein Coleman. Roger was an excellent student, athlete and musician in his early life, and went on to a long career in business that spanned more than four decades. Roger considered one of his greatest achievements to be the rank of Eagle Scout that he attained at a young age. His dedication to the tenets of the Boy Scouts philosophy would shape his outlook for the rest of his life. He attended the University of Colorado, where he excelled as a member of the ski team. Faced with a choice of whether to become a professional skier or to continue his education, Roger chose the latter, studying theater arts at UCLA, where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1950. That same year, Roger joined a division of S.E. Rykoff & Co., an institutional wholesale grocer in Los Angeles founded by Saul E. Rykoff in 1911. He steadily took on more responsibilities, moving up to the parent company in 1957 to work in the purchasing department and rising to general manager in 1963. Four years later, upon the death of Saul E. Rykoff, Roger became president. Under his leadership, the company grew steadily and went public, becoming the largest wholesale foodservice provider in the western United States. Roger had bigger business ambitions, and in 1983 he spearheaded the acquisition of John Sexton & Company in Chicago, doubling Rykoff's size overnight and expanding its geographic reach. A program of acquisitions, which started in the 1970s, continued and by the time he retired in 1992, after 25 years at the helm, annual revenue had expanded to more than $1 billion. After a series of mergers, the company became part of what is known today as US Foods. In retirement Roger began spending more time in Carmel, where he pursued his passion for golf with the zest that he approached his career, and where he lived the rest of his life. In Carmel he became a well-known, active member of the local community and was involved in many philanthropic activities. Roger served on the boards of the Monterey Symphony and Monterey County Animal Services. At the time of his death, he was active on the boards of Beacon House, a nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment center in Pacific Grove, California, and the Panetta Institute of Public Policy in Marina, California. During his career, he served as president of the United Institutional Distributors and the North American Foodservice Corporation, and he was a director of the National Institute for the Foodservice Industry. While in Los Angeles, he served on the board of the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Reiss-Davis Child Guidance Clinic, among many other civic organizations. Roger had four children with his first wife, Ruth Rykoff Coleman, whom he married in 1951. The marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by three of his children: William T. Coleman (Deborah Teltscher) of Los Angeles, Wendy C. Wood (David Petersen) of Greensboro, North Carolina, and Eric Roger Coleman (Yannick Lacroix Coleman) of London, England. He was preceded in death by his son Paul Rykoff Coleman of New York City. He is also survived by his five grandchildren: Rebecca Coleman, Joel Coleman, Courtney Wood, Marielle Coleman and Tristan Coleman. A second marriage, to Francesca Jones of the Netherlands, also ended in divorce. It is legend among those who knew him that Roger greeted every morning by saying "Oh Boy!" for yet another wonderful day. This sentiment has inspired those whom he helped to realize the power of the positive, something that Roger W. Coleman personified. It was Roger's request that memorials be directed to Beacon House and the Panetta Institute.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Mar. 22, 2017
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