Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Local News

July 2, 2014

Cole’s owner dies

Athens — When Joel Cole died on Tuesday, he left behind memories of a man who sported a big smile, served his customers well, and wasn’t afraid to implement new ways and ideas.

Cole, 79, passed away in a Tyler hospital after battling an illness that about two months ago, finally took him away from the business that he began in 1967, along with a loving wife and family.

“I worked side-by-side with him the last 38 years, day-after-day,” his wife, Janie Cole, remembered. “I worked with him 24/7, and we had a wonderful relationship.”

Janie saw herself as the “bean counter,” while Joel had the entrepreneur spirit that made the business. She remembers Joel getting the call in 1959 informing him that General Electric was going out of business in Athens.

“They said, ‘If you want it, you’ve got it,’ because they were so impressed with his ability,” Janie Cole said. “He was so dynamic, and was really a person who built his business out of concern for other people.”

Cole’s son, Mo Morrison, said the business was a family affair, with each one working amicably with the others through the years. They didn’t agree on everything, but that didn’t spoil the relationship.

“The great thing is we got to see each other every day,” Mo Morrison said. “We may not always agree on what color to paint the building, but we don’t argue over it.”

Judy McPherson said her father’s personality and demeanor with the customers played no small part in the company’s success.

“He was kind and sentimental, and his smile was infectious,” Janie McPherson said.

Cole Air Conditioning grew from one truck, to as many as 38 employees, and serviced courthouses, prisons, schools and business, as well as individual customers.

“He was bigger than Athens. He went everywhere,” son-in-law Jim McPherson said.  “He didn’t see obstacles. He saw opportunity.  He was my father-in-law, but he was more than that.”

Janie Cole said Joel’s business won many honors through the years, and often they would achieve enough the get to travel to exotic places through GE and Trance. In 1979, they had the opportunity to visit mainland China.

“They would take us to restaurants, and kids would circle us,” Janie Cole said. “Teenagers would ask us, ‘What is a freeway?’ or ‘What is a hamburger?’ It was quite an experience.”

In 2012, he was recognized as a Top 10 dealership for the Northeast Texas region, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Tyler and Texarkana. He received many other awards including the “Torch Award” from the Better Business Bureau, Business of the Year in 2009 and Business of the Month many times over the years.

“We have them stacked up,” Mo Morrison said. “We didn’t have the space to put them up anymore.”

Joel Cole was not afraid of change. Mo Morrison said if a new idea came along, he wasn’t afraid to come aboard.

If he wasn’t working, Joel Cole wasn’t one to head off on a fishing trip or to the golf course.

“If he wasn’t working, we were having some kind of family function,” daughter Janie McPherson said.

“What he wanted to do was get kids and grandkids in his backyard, get them in the pool or to eat something he was cooking,” Mo Morrison said.

Visitation for family and friends will be 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday at Carroll-Lehr Funeral Home.

Services for Joel Cole, 79, Athens are scheduled for 10 a.m., Thursday at First Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Lynette Solomon and the Rev. Paul Sherwood officiating. Burial will follow in Oaklawn Memorial Park.

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