Pat Cole led an exodus of college-age siblings from Pennsylvania to UAF in the early 1970s. He and his brothers, twins Terrence and Dermot, all stayed in Fairbanks after college, raised families and developed careers in various forms of public service.
As a result, “the Cole brothers” became well-known characters not only in the local community but also statewide.
Pat Cole transferred to UAF in 1970 after a mugging in downtown Philadelphia convinced him that Temple University wasn’t the place for him. Cole graduated from UAF in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in speech communications. He earned a law degree Outside in 1978 and returned to Fairbanks, where borough attorney Jim Nordale hired him.
Cole spent the next 35 years working in local government as an attorney and manager. Between the city and borough, he served 10 different mayors of vastly different political persuasions. He raised two children with his first wife, Nancy Webb, then married Judy Norrgard in 2008.
In late 2013, his lifelong heart problems finally forced a transplant operation, which Cole did not survive.
“He was the institutional glue that held the operation together,” former City of Fairbanks Mayor Jerry Cleworth said at Cole’s memorial service in December 2013. “Status quo was never acceptable. He was always looking for a better way of doing things.”
At KUAC FM, where Cole volunteered for decades, Lori Neufeld remembered the same quality. “Up to the last show he was involved with, which was just last October during KUAC’s fall fundraiser, he asked ‘how can we make it better?’” Neufeld recalled.
“Always quiet and calm, he was a positive influence on those around him, even at the end,” wrote his brother Dermot, a longtime columnist for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and Alaska Dispatch News. In the same column, he quoted their brother Terrence, a UAF professor and prominent Alaska historian: "When he lived in the swamp he claimed to have always liked swamps; when he moved to Cleary Summit, he claimed to enjoy the constant wind. And despite having been dealt a terrible hand in life with a bum heart, he never felt sorry for himself, never ever complained."
More online about Pat Cole:
- Dermot Cole’s tribute in the Nov. 22, 2013, edition of the Alaska Dispatch News
- A KUAC FM report about naming Fairbanks City Hall after him
- KUAC’s report on his posthumous receipt of the 2014 Spirit of KUAC award
- A Jan. 17, 2014, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article about a memorial service held at Fairbanks City Hall
- Obituaries in the Dec. 21, 2013, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Jan. 19, 2014, edition of The Intelligencer in Doylestown, Pennsylvania
- A Dec. 18, 2011, News-Miner article about his brothers, Dermot and Terrence