Alice M. “Woody” Cole, who taught Toledo elementary students for 30 years and was a substitute for several years beyond retirement, died Sunday in Bay Park Community Hospital, Oregon. She was 87.
She was being treated for pneumonia recently when doctors discovered she had rapidly progressing leukemia, her son Don said. A devoted fan of University of Toledo sports, she attended a women’s basketball game about 10 days ago, her daughter, Cindy, said.
Mrs. Cole retired in 1993 as a second-grade teacher at Old Orchard Elementary School, but much of her career was at the former Washington Elementary on Palmwood Avenue.
“She had a great love and compassion for her students,” her daughter said. “I can’t tell you how many people told me what a powerful impact my mother had on their lives.
“She loved, as I do, young children, because she was a very creative person,” said her daughter, who retired this year as a second-grade teacher at Highland Elementary in Sylvania.
“She had a great love of children’s literature and loved being able to share stories and sing songs and being able to do a variety of arts and crafts. What she tried to do was to instill in her students a joy for life and a joy for learning.”
Her son Don said: “She tried to help them along on their journey.”
For many years, a highlight was the end-of-year pool party for students at the Coles’ Sylvania home.
Mrs. Cole visited a variety of schools during her post-retirement career. Some teachers requested that she be their substitute.
“She loved what she did,” her daughter said.
She was born May 5, 1925, to May and Walter Wood in Pittsfield, Mass. She attended the Congregational Church there and became interested in “sharing her faith and her knowledge with others,” her daughter said.
A Sunday school teacher directed her to Schauffler College of Religious and Social Work in Cleveland, from which she graduated with a degree in Christian education.
At Schauffler, she became a friend and roommate of Cathryn Cornwall of Toledo. After graduation, Alice went off to Dayton for a job as a Christian educator.
Her college roommate, known to all as Katy, married Charles Webster “Web” Cole of Toledo in the late 1940s. Katy became pregnant, and when Alice received a telegram in Dayton, she expected joyous news. Instead, she learned that Katy died in childbirth.
Alice came to Toledo to help care for the infant. Mr. Cole and his newborn daughter moved in with his parents.
“She was devastated. She was worried about me. In the process of grieving and caring for me, my dad and Woody fell in love. They were married when I was 15 months old,” daughter Cindy said.
Mrs. Cole adopted her husband’s daughter, and the couple later had three sons.
From the start, Cindy was shown a picture and told, “‘This is Katy,’ ” she recalled.
“My mom always told me all about her. To me it’s a beautiful and touching story. I have thanked them that they kept me and loved me and gave me such a wonderful upbringing.”
Mrs. Cole attended Defiance College and had a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
She later received a master’s degree from UT.
She was a member of the former Rosewood Presbyterian Church. At Fairgreen Presbyterian, she was an elder and deacon, a Sunday school teacher, and sang in the choir.
“It seemed her whole life revolved around the activities of the church,” her daughter said.
It wasn’t unusual to find 60 people in the Cole back yard for a church group picnic or to find 30 family members and friends inside at Christmastime for a carol singalong.
“She had such a big heart,” her daughter said. “She was open to everyone and was accepting of all people and taught us, her children, to be the same.”
Mrs. Cole and her husband were members of the Jolly Roger Yacht Club and liked to spend time during the summer at Eagle Camp on Lake Champlain in Vermont.
The couple moved about six years ago to Otterbein Portage Valley retirement community near Pemberville. They remained regulars at UT football and men’s and women’s basketball games.
She and her husband married June 23, 1950. He died April 16, 2011.
Surviving are her daughter, Cindy Bandfield; sons, Donald, Larry, and John Cole; 12 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.
Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Fairgreen Presbyterian Church. Arrangements are by the Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania.
The family suggests tributes to the church or Otterbein Portage Valley Retirement.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.