Family, friends and Spokane civic leaders Thursday celebrated Expo ’74 President King Cole for giving everything he had to his family and adopted city.
Cole died Sunday at age 88. His life was commemorated in a funeral service at Our Lady of Fatima with Bishop Blase Cupich officiating.
Cole’s gift, said son-in-law Denny Duffell, was envisioning a new Earth, and getting others to buy into that vision.
When hired in 1963 to revitalize a downtown slipping into decay, Cole saw a city that would be cleaner and more beautiful, a center of the arts and a gathering place, he said.
Cole persuaded Spokane businesses the bottom line was not everything, Duffell said, and government leaders that their duties went beyond keeping the streets paved.
He said Cole was so devout a Catholic he wore out a breviary given as a gift. And when family gatherings dispersed, Cole would be sure to wish each departing member a safe journey.
Cole himself traveled extensively on behalf of Expo, and time away from his family of eight children and wife Jan was as much a burden as his Expo responsibilities, said eldest son Bruce.
“Dad had to give up a lot of things to make this amazing community transformation happen,” he said.
Despite those absences, Bruce said, his father instilled in his brood strong values.
“We all know what a great man he was,” he said. “All we can say is “Way to go, dad.’”
Dave Barber lived across 34th Avenue from the Coles.
“It was a riot,” he said, especially around holidays, and particularly April Fool’s Day, when all lived in fear of a Cole prank.
Barber called Cole a “world-class role model” whose importance to Spokane is not fully understood by those too young to remember the city before Expo.
His father, Bill, once asked Cole why he had studied in a seminary seven years early in life, Barber said, and Cole had responded that he wanted a simple life, one in which he could serve others and be close to God.
That, at the end, was what Cole achieved, Barber said.
Nephew R.B. Wadlington likened Cole to the advertising figure, “The most interesting man in the world,” and no small teller of tales.
A former ranger at Denali National Park, Wadlington recalled showing up at the Cole home unannounced while Cole was entertaining a delegation of Russians.
By the time Cole had finished embellishing his life of mushing dogs through the Alaskan wild, Wadlington said, he could not recognize himself.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, who interviewed Cole two years ago for Channel 5, said he was dogged, optimistic, and gracious even to those who opposed him.
“He was really humble,” she said. “Most of the interview was about other people.”
Verner ordered flags in the city lowered to half-staff in Cole’s honor.
Duffell said Cole put family, church and community above what could have been a life of greater wealth.
“He gave it all folks,” Duffell said. “His legacy is what he gave this city.”