On Sept. 4, 2021, we lost our hero and father Noel Edward Cole. Noel was born in West Plains, Missouri on Sept. 1, 1927. He joined his sister Grace, brother James and younger sister Fern. After his father died when he was 8, his life took many twists and turns from West Plains, to St. Louis, to Wyoming, Arizona and Washington. Noel worked hard his entire life, working the farm with his brother Jim, running a gas station, working as a gandy dancer on the railroad in Wyoming, and as a cross-country truck driver, and then joined the Army at 18, before moving to Washington. If you knew Noel, you know how much he loved a good story and generously shared his life experiences with everyone he met.
He met the love of his life, Barbara Jean Tauscher, at a USO dance at the Olympia Eagles Club while based at Fort Lewis with the Army. He never forgot the open arms of welcome and acceptance the Tauscher family extended to him from the homestead outside of Chehalis. He served in Japan after World War II where he suffered a life-changing injury. Barbara traveled to St. Louis to be with him and they were married by three Catholic priests, one as the officiant and two as witnesses. Their union was truly blessed. He always said she saved his life.
They moved to Phoenix for a short time before returning to Washington to start their family. He started work at the Yard Birds in 1952. He helped build the original store where Sunbirds currently resides. Eventually, he was convinced to manage the Olympia store, The SeaMart. After over 20 years there, he returned to the new Yard Birds in Chehalis as store manager where he finished his career and retired after 37 years.
Noel always had to have a project going so that he could decompress from work and be outside. He built a Longhouse where many family and friends gathered for epic celebrations. His crowning achievement was the two fish ponds he dug on the property to raise rainbow trout. In 1982, with the help of committed volunteers from Trout Unlimited and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, he began to raise steelhead salmon to be released into the North Fork of the Newaukum River. Shortly after, he built wheelchair ramps and a path around the pond and began to offer barrier free fishing for local special needs students, facility-bound elders and disabled veterans. In 2018, the family formed a nonprofit organization, The Noel Cole Fish & Wildlife Project, to continue his work.
Noel was one of the founders and the first chief of Fire District 6 and never lost his connection to the department. On Sept. 1, his 94th birthday, a volunteer team from the department brought “Chief One” home from the hospital for the last time where he passed surrounded by family to join his beloved Barbara.
Noel was preceded in death by Barbara and his son Jeffery. He is survived by Steve (wife Debbie), Greg (wife Mary), Michele, five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren, and treasured nieces and nephews. He is missed by many and will live on in the hearts and memories of the many people he touched.
A memorial will be held in the spring at the Tauscher family homestead. Donations to The Project can be made in Noel’s memory at https://bit.ly/3GUgSC1. For updates on a date and time, email Michele at email@example.com or follow our Facebook group, The Noel Cole Fish & Wildlife Project.