Galen Cole

BANGOR – Galen Cole, 94, died Jan. 9, 2020, in Bangor.

Born Nov. 29, 1925 in Bangor, Galen was the fifth of seven children born of Albert J. and Amy (Stone) Cole. He had battled prostate cancer since 1993.

A 1944 graduate of Bangor High School, Galen was a combat infantryman with the U.S. 5th Armored Division and lost his entire squad, five killed and eight wounded fighting in Germany on April 2, 1945. A recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, he served as president of the 5th Armored Division Association and three times hosted the group’s annual reunion in Bangor, including its final reunion in June 2012.

He worked 50 years for Cole’s Express, including decades as president, growing the company to a regional carrier serving Maine, northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes.

Galen served on and led over a lifetime scores of civic, charitable, military and business groups. He was elected in 1955 to the Bangor City Council at 29, and was mayor in 1958. His life of service included terms as president or chairman of: The Bangor Chamber of Commerce, Bangor YMCA, Target Area Development Corp., Down East Friends of Jackson Laboratory, Associated Industries of Maine and UM College of Business Advisory Board. He served 24 years on the University of Maine Development Council, several as its president. He was an honorary alumnus and received the coveted Black Bear Award for outstanding service.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart selected Galen for its National Americanism Award. He was an honorary member of the Maine National Guard and received the Distinguished Service Award from the 101st Air Refueling Wing. He led the Dedication Committee for the I-395 Veterans Remembrance Bridge and was selected chairman for Bangor’s celebration and parade marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. In 1994 he helped patriots from Luxembourg form the U.S. Veterans Friends Luxembourg, and served as its honorary president. The Maine American Legion named him Citizen of the Year and later presented him the Distinguished Service Award.

Galen received the Norbert X Dowd Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bangor Chamber of Commerce, the Business Leader of Maine Award from the Maine Chamber of Commerce, the Friend of Education Award from the Maine Education Association and an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from Husson University. He served 32 years on the boards of directors of Merrill Trust Bank, Merrill Bankshares and Fleet Bank. He was a board member of Central Maine Power Co. and Eastern Maine Medical Center. In 1968 he served as Potentate of Anah Shrine. Galen served terms on the vestry, followed by service as Junior, later Senior warden of Bangor’s St. John’s Episcopal Church.

In 1990 Galen and his wife Sue created and opened the Galen Cole Family Land Transportation Museum, which has been visited by more than half a million people from all 50 states, every Canadian province and dozens of foreign countries. Galen considered his highest public honor the gift of 77 Maine antique vehicles even before construction of the Cole Museum was begun. Since its opening and from all corners of Maine more than 50,000 Maine schoolchildren have interviewed veterans in the museum’s Ambassadors of Patriotism program. Maine made maple walking sticks have been given to more than 10,000 Maine veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Global War on Terrorism.

Galen was proud to have the museum grounds the home of several patriotic monuments, among them the Maine World War II Memorial, The Maine Vietnam War Memorial, The Maine Purple Heart Memorial and Bangor’s World War II Memorial.

Galen’s highest honor was the 73 year marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Suzanne (Welch) Cole who predeceased him in 2017.

Surviving him are their five children, Ann Parke and husband George, Richard “Dick” Cole and wife Jane, Garret “Gary” Cole, Janet Cole Cross and husband William, Galen “Len” Cole Jr. and wife Michele; 11 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren. Also surviving is his sister, Dorothy Warren.

Galen was predeceased by his parents; brothers, Gerald, Chesley, and Vaughn, sisters Jackie Wakefield and Winona Sawyer; and daughter-in-law, Marsha Cole.

The Galen Cole Family acknowledges and thanks the dozens of lifelong employees and family members of Coles Express, plus scores of Cole Museum volunteers who have been vital to the museum’s ongoing success.

More than 200 veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Global War on Terrorism have shared for 27 years their experiences with Maine youth through the Cole Museum’s Veterans Interview Program. Now third and fourth generation Cole family members are helping assist dozens of Maine military and civilian volunteers to assure the continuation of programs for generations to come safeguarding the guiding principle that the Cole Family Foundation will strive always to be Maine’s most efficient charitable organization, following Galen’s commitment to God in WWIII if allowed to return home from that war he would work to leave his fellow man better off than he had found them.

A public memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 at Anah Shrine Center, 1404 Broadway, Bangor with Dr. Steve Smith, Pastor of the First United Methodist Church officiating. All recipients of walking sticks are invited to attend and proudly carry and use them. Condolences to the family may be expressed at BrookingsSmith.com.