William Paul Cole, Jr. ’53

William Paul Cole, Jr. completed his earthly journey on June 28, 2020 with the same quiet dignity that distinguished his life. A dignity underscored by his passion for living and experiencing all that life had to offer, with roots strongly embedded in the city he loved.

Paul was born in New York City, NY on December 21, 1931, to William Paul Cole, Sr. and Harriet Foote Cole.

However, Bluefield was home, where he grew up, often working alongside his grandfather W. J. Cole at the West Virginian Hotel, forming his passions and many interests until he graduated from Beaver High School in 1949 and left to attend Davidson College. He returned home to marry Carol Ann McHugh on July 31, 1954. He served two years active duty with the U. S Army, continuing in the Reserves to earn the rank of captain. He then completed his education, earning an MBA from the Harvard School of Business in Boston, MA.

He took his first job with Hyatt hotels before going to work for IBM in New York as a systems engineer. He worked for IBM and lived in New York until 1965 when his father passed away unexpectedly. Taking a one year “leave of absence” from IBM, Paul returned to Bluefield and took over the operation of his father’s International Harvester dealership, Cole Motor Company. In 1975 he formed Truck City Parts and in 1982 purchased Evans Chevrolet which then became Cole Chevrolet Cadillac.

Through his years in business Paul served Bluefield and West Virginia in many roles. He was Bluefield’s longest serving mayor, 1981 to 1993, Chairman of American Truck Dealers Association 1978 to 1980, President of the West Virginia Auto Dealers Association, the first West Virginian to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, President of the Bluefield Chamber of Commerce and President of the Bluefield Rotary Club where he was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. He received an honorary Doctorate from Northwood University, Midland, MI for his leadership in establishing a Truck Marketing curriculum. On November 21, 2003 he was proudly inducted into the Bluefield High School Hall of Fame.

Paul, a member of Mensa and a licensed pilot since 1974, found time for many personal passions. A lifelong pursuit of fitness was expressed through jogging, golf and tennis, leaving just enough time for becoming a bridge life master as well as being an avid antique collector. He was an interesting man, interested in everything and always willing to share what he had experienced and learned.

Paul leaves Bluefield a legacy of integrity in business, respect for family values, and the three sons he and Carol shared and raised to carry on the business development and community service to which Paul dedicated his life.

Paul was preceded in death by his parents, his wife of 61 years, Carol McHugh Cole, infant daughter Leighann Letitia Cole and brother James Frederick Cole.

He is survived by sons William Paul Cole, III and wife Brownie, Charles McHugh Cole and wife Terri and Thomas Jacob Cole and wife Michelle, all of Bluefield, 13 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and sister-in-law Mary Frances McHugh. Special thanks and appreciation to Paul’s dedicated companion and caregiver of 6 years, Dashi Sho-Johnson and to his other caregivers including Patsy, Edmund, Brenda, Mike and Carol-Anne who so graciously assisted Paul through his final time on earth.

In lieu of flowers Paul would be honored if you would make a donation to the W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business at Bluefield State College, 219 Rock St., Bluefield, WV 24701 or Bluefield College, Advancement Office, 3000 College Ave., Bluefield, VA 24605.

Amid Covid-19 concerns, an outdoor graveside service will be held at 11 AM on Thursday, July 2nd at Roselawn Cemetery with his grandsons serving as pallbearers. A funeral procession will organize at Mercer Funeral Home and leave at 10:40 AM.

Those wishing to share memories or condolence messages with the family may do so by visiting www.MercerFuneralHome.com

Mercer Funeral Home & Crematory is serving the family of William Paul Cole, Jr.

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