Clifford Wallace Cole
Teacher, veteran, world traveler
Clifford Wallace Cole, a longtime resident of Claremont and Pomona, died on February 2, 2013 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. He was 88.
Mr. Cole was born in Broken Bow, Nebraska on February 6, 1924 to Everett Ward Cole and Helen Henrietta McClellen Cole. After a crop failure, his parents joined family in southern California, settling in Bell in 1927.
Mr. Cole was a lifelong athlete, who ran track and field at Bell High School and later at Whittier College, and was always up for a hike or game of tennis. He put his studies on hold in 1943 when, with World War II raging, he joined the US Marines. He earned a marksman badge while in training, a feat of which he was quite proud considering that he was nearly blind in his left eye.
Mr. Cole was assigned as an ammunition carrier to a mortar platoon that was sent to Guam. They spent quite a while floating around the Pacific in a troop carrier before getting the go-ahead to invade the Japanese-held island, during which time he perfected a mean game of chess and checkers. In late July of 1944, Mr. Cole and his platoon came ashore in the second wave of US troops to hit the beach.
Mr. Cole and his fellow Marines lived out of foxholes, enduring heat, humidity, heavy rainfall and dysentery and unable to leave for fear of drawing Japanese fire. The nightmarish experience would inspire his later opposition to conflicts such as the Vietnam War.
Before Guam was secured in August of 1944, Mr. Cole was hit by a sniper. Though it was a spent bullet, he said it felt like he had been “kicked by a mule.” That bullet was his ticket out of the war. He always thought it saved his life, because the rest of his platoon was sent Iwo Jima, the site of some of the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific Theatre. Mr. Cole was honorably discharged in 1945 with a Purple Heart.
Mr. Cole loved to travel and, after completing his bachelor’s degree at Whittier College with the help of the GI Bill, he joined his grandmother on a trip to Brazil to visit his aunt, Mary Sue Moore, who, at 95, is still alive today. They brought with them 2 new Cadillacs to help his uncle get around import restrictions of the time. After a while, Mr. Cole grew restless in Brazil and took a boat to Spain to travel around Europe. And why not? The dollar was strong and Americans, especially GIs, were very well-liked.
He eventually made his way to Scandinavia and there met a young Swiss woman, Edith Tschudi, while both of them were at a work camp in Sweden. They fell in love and were engaged, and Mr. Cole returned to California to look for work while Ms. Tschudi, having to wait for a visa, accompanied her sister to Australia. Finally, in July of 1955, she traveled from Australia to Hawaii, where she and Mr. Cole were married under the care of the Honolulu Friends Meeting.
Mr. Cole became acquainted with the Religious Society of Friends branch of Quakerism at Whittier College. Through connections he made there, he was referred for a teaching position in the Claremont Unified School District. He went on to teach at Vista del Valle and Oakmont elementary schools in Claremont for almost 20 years and is remembered fondly by many former students.
He and his wife settled in Claremont and rented a home on Brook Street where their first son, Samuel, was born. The family bought their first home on Elder Drive soon after and their second son, Daniel, and daughter Sarah were born there in quick succession. By the time Ms. Cole was pregnant with Benjamin, the family’s need for a larger home was evident and they were able to buy a large old house on Tenth Street in 1961. A second daughter, Hannah, was adopted as a toddler of 2½ in 1965. Their youngest son, Aaron, was born in 1967 in Bogotá, Columbia.
Mr. Cole was the quiet sort, preferring to be the listener in social situations, but he enjoyed singing. He was a member of the Claremont Chorale for decades as well as a regular participant in an international folk dancing group run by fellow Claremonter Jim Maynard.
The Coles had a ritual: Rather than praying at the start of meals, they would join together in song. One family favorite was a tune from the 1948 Disney film, “Johnny Appleseed.” Parents and kids alike would sing, “Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord…” Mr. Cole also enjoyed reading aloud to his children, books like “The Hobbit” and the Narnia series.
In 1966, Mr. Cole took a sabbatical and, driving through Mexico and Central America towing a small trailer, moved his family to Bogotá, Colombia to teach in an American school. What originally was planned to be a one-year hiatus turned into 3 years.
The family’s Columbia sojourn was just one of the many exotic trips undertaken by Mr. Cole over the years. He was known as being easygoing but, from time to time, he would get an adventuresome whim, and nothing as insignificant as rules could dissuade him.
Once, when Mr. Cole was visiting Moscow, he decided he wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway, but his visa had expired and would take 2 weeks to replace. Mr. Cole bought a ticket anyways and chugged three-fourths of the way to Siberia before a border official asked him where his visa was. When he said he didn’t have one, they handcuffed him, put him on a plane with an agent and dropped him off at the door of the US embassy in Moscow. After 2 weeks, he got back on the train, this time with visa in hand.
Mr. Cole’s tendency to question authority extended to his progressive politics, from supporting Edith’s fasting for nuclear disarmament in the 1980s to her many calls against American military intervention in Central America. He even traveled to Mississippi to participate in the Freedom Rides in the mid-1960s.
Mr. Cole and his wife also traveled to China, right after the country first opened up to western visitors, bringing along 4 of their kids. Their son Daniel—who spoke fluent Chinese—was attending college there. Mr. Cole struck up an acquaintance with a Communist official who lived in inner Mongolia, who invited him to visit him in his Gobi Desert home. It was too expensive for all the Coles to go; in the end, Edith agreed to travel to Mongolia with Mr. Cole while the kids, all adults except a teenaged Aaron, remained behind, following their own itinerary.
Back in Claremont, Mr. Cole was an active member of Claremont Friends Meeting from 1956 until 2001, when he separated from Edith and relocated to Pomona to live with Evelyn Folkins of Lincoln Park. With her he pursued many interests: participation in the University Club and International House events at Pomona College; tandem bicycle rides; trips to Utah each summer to attend an annual Shakespeare Festival and traveling to the Olympic Games in Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney.
“He was very open to meeting people, and never said a negative word about anyone,” family shared. “He always was happy to open up his home to strangers or friends at a moment’s notice.”
Mr. Cole was preceded in death by his older brother, Kenneth Cole, in 1990, and by his younger brother, Harold Cole, in 2004. He is survived by his wife, Edith Tschudi (living in Pakistan with her daughter Sarah); by his sons, Samuel Cole of Decatur, Georgia, Daniel Tschudi of Honolulu, Hawaii, Benjamin Cole and his wife Nakhon Ratchasima of Thailand, and Aaron Cole of Oakland, California; and by his daughters, Sarah Zaman of Lahore, Pakistan and Hannah Roberts of North Lauderdale, Florida. He is also survived by his aunt, Mary Sue Moore of Anaheim; by his nephews, Wesley Cole of Covington, Louisiana and Arnold Cole of Hickman, Nebraska; by his nieces, Kathy Booth of Deland, Florida and Leslie Cole of Alameda, California; and by 10 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 23, at 11 a.m. at Claremont Friends Meeting House, 727 N. Harrison Ave. in Claremont. Refreshments and visiting will follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Claremont Friends Meeting House.