Clifford Melvin Cole, of Juneau, passed on November 28, 2018 at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, WA at the age of 87.
Clifford was born September 7, 1931 in Petersburg, AK to Clifford M. Michaelson and Esther R. Ridout. His mother and father lived on a float house around the Petersburg area until he was the age of 5. His father, a logger and a miner, died in a logging accident in 1935. “One sunny day while his mother was on her float house with her twin sister Edith the engine stopped working and they were stranded. Jim Cole showed up. He saw they were in distress fixed the engine and ended up falling in love with Esther.” Jim, whose father had come to Alaska during the Yukon Gold Rush, was working on a road crew in Wrangell and Esther was the camp cook.
They were married on Christmas Day in 1936 and moved to Juneau in 1937. His adopted father would go on to create Cole Brothers in 1938, J. V. Cole & Co., later Cole & Paddock a partnership of James V Cole and Tom Paddock Sr. in 1952. In 1959 Clifford came in as a partner, the company then was incorporated. This venture lasted until 1969. The company built most of the harbor and bridge infrastructure in Southeast Alaska. His mother, Esther, and her sister Edith would open the Totem Twins Gift Shop at the Juneau Airport.
They lived out on Thane Road. As a boy, Clifford would “grab his 22 rifle on the way to school and hunt for dinner after school on the way home.” Clifford graduated from Juneau High School in 1949 as class valedictorian. He had his pick of Colleges to choose from and he chose to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. At MIT, Clifford studied Engineering and Naval Architecture and joined the US Army through ROTC. After graduation in 1954, he served at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. After completing his service in the Army, Clifford returned to Juneau in 1956. He worked as an engineer for the 17th Coast Guard District for three years before joining his father’s company, Cole & Paddock in 1959. In the years following, the Company went on to construct bridge and harbor projects across the State; constructing the seven original Marine Highway terminals, and; rebuilding bridges and docks following the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. “Clifford and his father helped build the infrastructure of Alaska; being organized was key to efficiency and getting the job done in a timely manner.”
In 1963, he married Elizabeth Castle, the niece of Harriet and Percy Reynolds, long time owners of Percy’s Café in downtown Juneau. When his father retired from Cole & Paddock in 1969, Clifford ran his own marine construction business for 11 years under the name Climco Constructors, Inc.
Between 1969 and 1981, Clifford and his family lived in the Seattle area on Bainbridge Island. He worked summers on projects in Alaska and later for CH2M Hill in Seattle. He continued to maintain strong ties to that community, owning several properties, including the historic Pine Building in downtown Winslow.
In 1981, he returned to Juneau full time working for Department of Transportation for the Alaska Marine Highway. He worked on the Boeing Jet Foil project for Alaska Marine Highways and subsequently became the Shore Facilities Maintenance Manager for the System. He managed a crew of maintenance workers that performed maintenance on the facilities that both he and his father and Tom Paddock built retiring in 1997. He has been a member of the Juneau Mendenhall Flying Lions Club, Juneau Moose Club, and Alaska Pioneers and stayed busy with travel and maintaining several rental properties between Juneau and the Bainbridge Island area. He attended church at Faith Lutheran in Juneau, and Bethany Lutheran on Bainbridge Island.
Clifford was an exceptional man. A humble person who worked extremely hard his whole life. He will be remembered as a true Alaskan Pioneer whose life and accomplishments demonstrate the Alaskan spirit; his genuine kindness to all he met; his strong intellect, and; his ever-present sense of humor and his infectious, hearty laugh.
A loving husband, father and an adoring grandfather and great-grandfather. Clifford is survived by his loving wife of 55 years, Elizabeth Cole (nee Castle) of Juneau, his daughter Susetta Cole (John Kern) of Juneau and his two sons, Curtis Cole (Cammie Cole) of Wenatchee, WA and Conrad Cole (Sherice Cole) of Juneau. He has eight grandchildren, Pamela Fletcher, Jason Beattie, Kathleen Beattie, Sophie Cole, Landon Cole, Drake Cole, Aidan Cole, Jasmine Ridges, four great-grandchildren Margaret Fletcher, Hannah Fletcher, Aliyah Beattie, Chaise Beattie and one great-great grandchild Isaac Beattie.
A celebration of Clifford’s life will be held in Juneau at Faith Lutheran Church at a later date.
He will be put to rest at the Shrine of St. Therese in Juneau.