Husband, father, grandfather, brother, caregiver, retailer, true gentleman. Born April 2, 1918, in Vancouver. Died May 1, 2011, in Toronto of pneumonia, aged 93.
Raymond Ko was one of five children born to Wing Kan and Alberta Ko. Seeking better opportunities for his children, Wing moved his family from British Columbia to Toronto.
Raymond graduated from Jarvis Collegiate, then pursued his interest in aircraft maintenance at Central Technical. After being posted to a Royal Canadian Air Force base in Quebec to study navigation, he moved back to Toronto and worked in a photo-finishing shop.
Wing started an importing business in 1935 and set up a retail store, Ko’s Linens, at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard Streets. It was a family business, and Raymond worked closely with his brothers, Tom, Fred and Donald, and his sister, Vera. Together they operated five stores in the Toronto area, including a summer satellite store in Port Carling, Ont.
Raymond was a true pioneer and was proud to offer high-quality merchandise to his customers. His greatest strength was his passion for retail, illustrated by his warm greetings, welcoming smile and insightful advice to customers trying to find the perfect gift.
While attending gift shows in Montreal, Raymond met Coral Gillette, who soon became his beloved wife, companion and friend. They were married in 1950 and had two sons, Lindsay and Gary.
In the 1950s, they opened a store in Sunnybrook Plaza, then started a new venture in Don Mills Centre, where Ko’s Gifts remained a tenant for more than 50 years.
Raymond’s customers remember “Mr. Ko” with fondness and gratitude. Both customers and business associates described him as a true gentleman.
Ko’s Gifts was Raymond’s hobby; he loved his customers and the many staff he trained over several generations. On the rare occasion when he would take a break from work, he and Coral attended the opera. Coral became president of the Canadian Opera Women’s Committee, and Raymond couldn’t have been prouder.
They were true partners in every sense of the word: spouses, business companions and socialites. They were always seen together, whether at the store, gift shows, opera functions or their home away from home, the Donalda Club, with grandchildren Kaitlyn, Alexander and Ryan.
When Coral developed Alzheimer’s disease, with the support of his entire family Raymond dedicated himself to being her primary caregiver, while still operating his business at the new Shops at Don Mills.
Raymond had a passion for life and enjoyed time with friends, family and customers. Many people were surprised to learn that he was 93 years young.
By Lindsay and Gary Ko, Raymond’s sons, and Jo-Ann and Patricia Ko, Raymond’s daughters-in-law.
Follow us on Twitter: