John Cole

1918 — 2009

by Bob Dvorak

John was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on December 3, 1918 to Lovell and Mabel Cole. He lived with his parents and younger sister, Shirley, in a modest, loving home in this working class New England town. He was active in the Boy Scouts and his church youth group, and early developed a passionate love of learning.

John studied Latin, French, science, math, and English in high school, and came to especially love Shakespeare and the dramatic arts. He would stay up late at night, tuning his radio to stations all over the country, absorbing broadcast dramas, jazz, and news from the wide world beyond Waterbury. John briefly pursued an acting career, but when war broke out in Europe he felt called to serve. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps a year before Pearl Harbor, and shipped off for England early in 1942.

John flew numerous missions with the 44th Bomb Group, coordinating radio communications aboard B-24s over German-held territory. He participated in some of the most dangerous combat of the war, including the 1943 low-level bombing of the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania. On a mission over Italy, John’s calm courage and quick thinking helped saved the lives of six of his crew members after a forced ditching at sea. For his service, he was awarded the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal.

While stationed in England, John began corresponding with a young woman in Minneapolis named Adele Oberg. Their relationship blossomed during and after the war, and they were married in 1946 at Bethlehem Covenant Church. John graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 1948, and did graduate study in communications at the University of Denver. After a brief stint as a radio broadcaster, he began a career in advertising, first in Minneapolis and later in Chicago.

From 1948 to 1959, the Cole family grew to include five children: Kevin, Dana, Tim, Cynthia, and Diane. John and Adele continued living in the family home in Park Forest, Illinois, until 1975, when they returned to Minneapolis. John retired from his career in advertising in the early 1980s and began doing volunteer work for a variety of organizations, including Talking Books for the Blind. He also served as chair of Bethlehem Covenant Church, on the Minneapolis Senior Citizens Advisory Committee and on a national board, the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission.

In 1987, John and Adele moved into the Covenant Village retirement community in Golden Valley. John was very active in many aspects of life at Covenant Village, offering his insight and expertise on various committees and projects.

Eventually there would be 11 grandchildren, and at the time of John’s death, six great grandchildren. John, known as “Bucka” and Grandpa, delighted in their lives, sharing his wise words and gentle humor until the end.

Throughout his life, John celebrated his relationship with Jesus Christ. He took his faith seriously, deepening his relationship with Christ until his final days. While we will miss him greatly, we rejoice that he is now truly home.

See all articles by Bob Dvorak