Oro Valley resident Eliot Cobb was planning to bicycle in the lush countrysides of northern Italy, travel to Hawaii and climb Mayan ruins.
These were among excursions that Cobb, 65, one of five co-founders of the Denver-area eBags.com and former chief financial officer for the online luggage retailer, was about to embark on in the coming years with family members.
This would have all been made possible because the company, which he helped create from the den of a Colorado house in 1998, recently announced its sale to Samsonite for $105 million. The sale is set to close in May, said Eliot’s brother Peter Cobb, 59, also a co-founder of eBags.
However, those dreams are gone now, lost in a moment of unthinkable violence at an upscale restaurant in Tucson’s Foothills.
“We are here picking up the pieces,” said Peter Cobb, who with his siblings are in Tucson attending to matters of Eliot’s personal life after he was shot and killed Friday night inside Firebirds Wood Fired Grill at La Encantada shopping center.
Tucson Fire Capt. Frederick Bair, 60, killed Eliot Cobb and then Bair shot his ex-wife, Mary Jo Bair, 57, wounding her in the leg. Next, the fire captain killed himself, authorities said.
Family members said Eliot and Mary Jo were friends who they believe were just having dinner together on Friday night.
Federica Rabiolo-Kurtis said her stepfather and Mary Jo “may have gone on a couple of dates in the past” but they were not dating now.
“He was romantically involved with another woman who he met in January,” said Rabiolo-Kurtis. “He wasn’t someone who would have been involved in a love triangle. He wasn’t a violent person. He was a kind, gentle soul.”
Peter Cobb said: “Personally I don’t hold a grudge for Mary Jo or her family. It was an incident that involved being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The brother said he did not know anything about Mary Jo, and said surveillance cameras at the shopping center showed that Eliot and Mary Jo both arrived separately at the restaurant and came from opposite directions. He also said a person who visited Eliot’s home often never saw Mary Jo at the house.
Meanwhile, those close to Eliot are trying to cope with his violent death.
“He was waiting for this moment in life,” said Rabiolo-Kurtis, explaining her stepfather’s wishes to travel, learn Spanish, continue painting and playing the guitar.
“He got robbed of it,” she said of the man dear to her heart who walked her down the aisle on her wedding day — last Sept. 10 — on Eliot’s birthday. The wedding was outdoors at a winery in Virginia.
The 28-year-old woman, who works for eBay in communications in Washington, D.C., said she will live her life carrying out her stepfather’s wishes. “I will make sure in life we carry on his memory and his wishes to travel and to learn the ways in the kitchen.”
“He loved sweets. He loved carrot cake and all foods — Italian and Mexican — and foods from all regions,” said Rabiolo-Kurtis, a native of Italy who received dual citizenship three years ago. She said her mother and stepfather divorced years ago.
She saw Eliot a month ago at his home where she visited him many times after his move from Denver. He visited the Tucson area in 2008 and enjoyed the warm December and bought his home in Oro Valley.
Bicycling was his passion and he rode several hundred miles a week. He pedaled in El Tour de Tucson last year, and he loved riding up Mount Lemmon, said Rabiolo-Kurtis. She also was there for Eliot when he received injuries in crashes, including a broken pelvis, and she remained caring for him during his mending.
Other loves for Eliot were his vintage cars — a bright blue Mustang and a white convertible Jaguar. There also were his two rescued golden Labrador retrievers — Diesel and Shasta. The family was searching for a home for the dogs, and a "loving home" was found. The dogs will stay together.
For Peter Cobb, his older brother was a “phenomenal” businessman who kept eBags going through the nation’s economic difficulties after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and during the early years for the start-up business.
“He navigated the company through financial engineering and it was Eliot’s time to shine. He was a brilliant finance engineer who was known as the ‘Excel Ninja’ who balanced the books and searched for the missing penny. That is why he made a great chief financial officer,” explained Peter Cobb, who described himself as the extrovert in charge of marketing and sales for eBags.
“He was my big brother who had a strong work ethic, a never-give-up attitude and was always persistent in doing what needed to be done,” recalled Peter Cobb.