Owner Bob Cote of Tanque Verde Ranch Passes Away
Robert Thorpe “Bob” Cote, a gregarious cowboy and second-generation owner of Tanque Verde Ranch who transformed a working dude ranch into an award-winning resort, died peacefully surrounded by family on Tuesday, May 2.
Born in Edina, Minn. on June 23, 1934, Bob Cote was a connoisseur of life. After graduating from Carleton College in 1956 with a degree in Economics, Cote traveled for 13 years throughout Europe and Asia and was pursuing a Ph.D. in Japan before returning to lead the family-owned ranch nearly 50 years ago. Opened in 1868, Tucson’s oldest continuously operated business is set against the Rincon Mountains and Saguaro National Park. “Bob said ‘I’ll run it for a while until you find somebody else,’” recalled his brother Sam Cote. “That was 1970, and he never left. He was an academic, always inquisitive and smart, but he had a knack for people. It was a gift.”
An atypical rancher who enjoyed opera and theater, Cote was an eccentric art collector fluent in French and Japanese. At some point, however, the boot fit—as did the bolo ties. Cote immersed himself in Southwest culture, collecting artifacts and bolo ties, giving him his signature look. A local celebrity and well-known face around Tanque Verde Ranch, Bob could be found flipping blueberry pancakes at the morning breakfast ride, greeting guests and friends in the Dog House Saloon, or dining at cowboy cookouts alongside his wife Rita Cote, with whom he ran the ranch in tandem.
The gift, it turned out, was not only Cote’s passion at the ranch where his legend was made but also his foresight. Cote expanded the resort repertoire beyond horses alone while still preserving the essence of a dude ranch. Activities are tailored to families with hiking, mountain biking, tennis, fishing, and a nature program. Tanque Verde is also an acclaimed destination for weddings and family reunions.
Now a multi-generational retreat with 60 percent return guests, Tanque Verde Ranch lures guests of all ages in search of Arizona’s great wide open. His aspiration for people visiting the ranch was to leave with love and appreciation of horses and the Sonoran Desert. Bob’s dedication to hospitality and his guests earned him friends across the world.
His endeavors were recognized in 2005 when he received the State of Arizona’s Hall of Fame for Tourism, which marked the first guest ranch inductee. In 2012, Bob Cote was inducted into Dude Ranchers Hall of Fame by The Dude Ranchers Association.
Bob always encouraged his friends and children to take advantage of opportunities. He was a life-long adventurer, including driving from Singapore to Paris in 1958, and life-long student, taking classes at the University of Arizona until recently. His pursuit of passion will continue to inspire so many. He is survived by his wife, four children, three brothers, four grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.