In Memory of Granger Cobb

By Steve Moran

Just a few minutes ago . . . I received this email:

Granger Cobb, 55, passed away on Tuesday evening, September 22nd, 2015, at his home in Seattle after an inspiring and courageous battle with cancer. Granger was a pioneer of the senior living movement, starting Cobbco, Inc. in 1989 with his wife, Tina, and ultimately becoming president and CEO of Emeritus Senior Living. One of his final great achievements was his success in merging Emeritus into Brookdale Senior Living a little over a year ago. Granger had an infectious smile, tremendous spirit and unyielding optimism until his final day. He was proud to serve as a mentor and role model to many aspiring leaders, in his personal and professional life. In his own words, “I lived the most blessed life imaginable with a wonderfully loving family, incredible friends, and an exceptionally fulfilling career.”

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Tina; daughters Caitlin and Cassandra; father, Dr. Earl Lewis; mother, Letty; sisters Missy Hull, Catherine Potdevin, and Melanie Werdel; and brother Bryson.

Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, P.O. Box 19023, Seattle WA 98101-1023. Checks may be made payable to SCCA with indication that they are in memory of Granger Cobb. Or call (206) 288-2070 or (877) 308-3117 to make a donation by phone.

Andy Smith of Brookdale also offered this note:

“Granger Cobb was a true pioneer and leader in our industry. He had a tremendous impact on the lives of countless seniors and their families and all of the associates who benefited from his leadership and vision. Granger was a key player in bringing together Brookdale and Emeritus in 2014 to create the largest senior living company in America. His vision, friendship and energy will be deeply missed. My deepest condolences go out to his family.”

Personal Reflections . . .

I had not been publishing Senior Housing Forum for more than about a year when the big Pro Publica hatchet job landed on the doorstep of Emeritus and in the neighborhood of every senior living provider. We were all freaked out and it was a painful, painful experience for Granger and the rest of the Emeritus team.   

I started writing and writing and publishing stories about it. At least one article touched some raw nerves, but were supportive. I always knew the leadership team at Emeritus had nothing but great intentions, which is why the story was so painful.

Against that backdrop I was travelling to Seattle and requested an introductory meeting with Granger. I was granted I think 15 minutes. I was scared to death because at that time he was the CEO of the largest senior living company in the country.   I remember an assistant came to shoo me out after exactly 15 minutes and he sent her away granting me some additional time. I was thrilled.

That was the start of a very friendly relationship. We talked a number of times about the “One Project” that was an attempt to merge ALFA and ASHA, an effort that didn’t quite make it to the goal line.   

After the Brookdale merger he was the keynote speaker at one of the CALA (California Assisted Living Association) annual meetings where he spent 45 memorable, profound minutes reflecting on his life in the senior living industry and lessons learned. It was a terrific insider view.

Knowing Grainger would be there, I reached out and asked if he would have some time to chat. It wasn’t an interview, just a time to catch-up. After his presentation and greeting many well wishers and friends, we grabbed an empty table and talked and talked and talked.

My Favorite Picture

We had barely began chatting when we were interrupted by a young man who was a relatively new executive director, looking for his next job and advice . . . or maybe even a job. He was actually someone I knew a little bit and, if I am honest, I was kind of . . . . no . . . quite annoyed that he butted into this conversation.

Not Granger, he was gracious, gentle and provided solid advice and encouragement.

It was a great example and a great lesson for me.  


A couple months ago I heard he was terminally ill and thought several times about reaching out to him to express my gratitude for the things I learned from him and his help in growing Senior Housing Forum. I didn’t and wish I had. He made a lasting impact on senior living and will be missed by many of us.