Born: November 03, 1918
Died: September 07, 2013
George was born on November 3, 1918 in Garland, Utah to George and Mary Cole. The family soon moved to Dryden, Washington where George Sr. owned and operated the local drug store. G.R., as George Jr. was affectionately known around town, graduated from Dryden High School in 1936. He built wooden apple boxes to raise money for school and attended Washington State College (now W.S.U.) where he met his future wife, Barbara Carroll.
Before George could graduate, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in ROTC and called into service in 1942. He was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, known in history as “The Big Red One”, the driving force on the ground in the European Theatre of WWII. George and 17,000 other troops departed New York aboard the Queen Mary without a Navy escort simply because none could keep up with the QM’s 33 knot speed. They crossed the North Atlantic, thick with German submarines, and arrived safely in Scotland three days (and a few thousand hands of poker) later.
George continued to lead troops for two and a half years. During that time, he fought in nearly every major battle in North Africa and Europe, including the well-known Invasion of Omaha Beach. George’s unit landed on Normandy only 30 minutes after the Navy Seals cleared the beach and the battle began. During his WWII service, he was promoted to Captain, and received the Bronze Star Medal (which his humble self said they gave to everyone) and the Purple Heart.
When George returned home on leave, he married his college sweetheart, Barbara, one week later. George and Barbara celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary in June.
After George received his separation papers from active duty with the U.S. Army, he went to work for the Hercules Specialty Company, which was owned in part by Barbara’s mother, Opal Carroll. Later, George and Barbara purchased Thrifty Auto Parts from a bankruptcy court and merged it with the Hercules. Business partners and life partners, George and Barbara went on to build a small chain of successful automotive parts stores which they sold when they retired in 1985.
George continued to be active in the Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. Always interested in learning, George completed a computer course in his 80s, which his son and his teacher discovered, provided enough credits to secure his Bachelor’s Degree from W.S.U.
George and Barbara had two children, David born in 1950, and Carol Anne born in 1955. They raised their family and lived in Valley until moving to Rockwood Retirement Community in 2003.
George was most proud of his family and the accomplishments of the community organizations for whom he served. He loved his family and his community, and devoted himself tirelessly to many organizations including the YMCA, Lutheran Social Services, the Empire Health Foundation, and Spokane Rotary. He also was active in the Marketeers investment club.
He loved to golf and ski, and took great pride in teaching his kids how to ride a bike, pitch a tent, golf, ski, pan fry a trout over a campfire, and toss a horseshoe. Until moving to Rockwood, George was an active member of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and always, a man of unwavering faith.
An optimist and a soldier, he battled back from a debilitating stroke three years ago. After suffering a fall two weeks ago, George passed away in his sleep on September 7.
He is survived by his wife Barbara, son David (Robin) Cole, and daughter Carol Anne (Laird) Vanetta; grandchildren Jody (Jeremy) Wilson, Andrew Kurtz, Ryan Vanetta and Spencer Cole; nephew Steve Cole and nieces Debbie (Frank) Delfer and Kelly (Jack) Berka; cousin Mike (Resa) Briscoe; and numerous grand nephews, nieces and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents George and Mary Cole, and brother Jack Cole.
The family wishes to thank his many friends and colleagues for your warm friendship and camaraderie. You enriched his life immeasurably, and it was his privilege to have known each and every one of you.
Remembrances may be made to Lutheran Social Services, the YMCA, the Spokane Rotary Foundation, or your favorite charity.
A celebration of George’s life will be held Friday, September 27 at 1 p.m. at Heritage Funeral Home.