About 350 people came out to remember Galen Cole during a memorial service Saturday that included three rifle volleys to honor the World War II veteran and stories from a number of his friends and family members.
The speakers at the service talked about Cole’s narrow survival of a German artillery attack and his subsequent lifelong effort to build appreciation for the nation’s veterans, including by starting the Cole Land Transportation Museum and a charitable foundation with his wife Sue.
Cole, who also ran his family’s trucking company for many years and served one term on the Bangor City Council, died Jan. 9 at the age of 94.
During the service at the Anah Shrine Temple on outer Broadway in Bangor, two of his children, Gary Cole and Janet Cole Cross, also highlighted many of the more quirky and ordinary moments in their father’s life, such as his ability to keep talking throughout a whole car ride and his love of singing to his wife before she died in 2017.
“As many of you know, dad had many, many rules to follow,” Gary Cole said. “He’d always carry a pad of paper and a pencil and take notes. If dad said, ‘I’m in no rush,’ we knew what that means. That means you have the work done within a week. If he didn’t tell you the priority of what the issue was, that meant get it done by tomorrow.”
Gary, who said he has Parkinson’s disease, recalled that his father always offered “a helping hand and kind words” when he was contending with its symptoms. He also recalled his father’s tendency to pay the toll for out-of-state drivers who were behind him on the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, prior to the toll being removed around 1970.
About 50 people in the crowd wore the orange coats given to volunteers at the Cole Land Transportation Museum. Those jackets matched the one that belonged to Cole that was displayed in the front of the venue, alongside an urn. The display also included several bouquets of flowers and a red, white and blue cardigan sweater that Cole’s wife knit for him.
Cole’s work to help honor those who served their country was also clear from the dozens of veterans who came to the memorial service — many of them with the honorary walking sticks that were donated to them by his museum.
Late in the service, they were asked to stand and hold their walking sticks in the air as part of a salute to Cole. That was followed by a short ceremony by members of the U.S. Army that included a presentation of a flag to Cole’s relatives, three rifle volleys outside the venue and the sounding of a bugle.
After the ceremony, a number of the veterans who have volunteered at Cole’s museum spoke fondly of his efforts. Harry Rideout, 78, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War-era, recalled that the Galen Cole Family Foundation helped donate benches to a veterans memorial park in Hermon.
“I’ve only met Galen Cole one time, but from what I know he was generous to a fault,” said another veteran, Skip Young, 66, of Glenburn, who now offers tours of the museum. “I’ve never met anyone like him. That guy was involved with everything.”
Young served in Vietnam and Lebanon during his time in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Soon, he plans to participate in a program in the museum that allows veterans to be interviewed by middle school students. Young said that volunteering at the museum has been helpful in combating the loneliness that’s “a big part of my life” following the recent death of his wife.
Joe Wright, 79, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Orono whose service included three years flying supply planes during the Vietnam War, also enjoys sharing his own story with kids at the museum. He said that the museum has provided a strong platform for Cole to communicate one of his bedrock beliefs.
“He’d always say, ‘Freedom isn’t free,’” Wright said. “I don’t consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, but his dedication to the country and to liberty came through beautifully with his programs.”