A Life Lived: Shag Cole was a man of many talents

Published 5:41 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2020

William Melville “Shag” Cole was 90 years old when he died April 14 after a long illness. Shag, as he was known to his friends and family, had packed a lot of living into those 90 years. He was a multi-talented individual, who could do almost anything —carpentry, electrical wiring, plumbing, gardening, and even making fudge.
Shag was known far and wide for his homemade chocolate fudge. He had been making the fudge — pounds of it — for years and giving it as gifts at Christmas. “His sister taught him to make the fudge when he was young, and he perfected it over the years. He gave it to his Sunday School class, friends and neighbors, and family,” said his daughter, Vickie.
She noted that one of the special things he did on Valentine’s Day was to make a large chocolate fudge heart and a peanut butter fudge heart, which were auctioned off along with other items for a youth fundraiser at Valentine’s at First Baptist Church, Elizabethton. “It was not unusual for his candy hearts to go for $100 each,” said Vickie.
“Daddy loved First Baptist Church and especially his Sunday School class, the Four-Square Class. In the past he had gone on mission trips, where he had done electrical wiring for some of the churches he had visited,” Vickie shared. Shag had gone on mission trips to Venezuela, Prince Edward Island, and Townsend, Tenn.
He had worked at North American Rayon in his earlier years, and later as an electrical engineer at Raytheon.
Aside from his work and church, Shag enjoyed sports. “It if had ‘ball’ in it, he loved it,” said Vickie. “He was a Unaka Ranger through and through. He enjoyed both Ranger and U-T football and basketball, both boys and girls.”
She noted that when the Unaka boys won the state basketball championship in 2004, on Sunday afternoon they went down to W. Elk Avenue to a spot near Railroad Street to welcome the team back to Elizabethton. As the team came into town, Coaches Donald and Johnny Ensor spotted my dad. When they did, they had the driver stop the bus, and Donald brought the gold ball over for Dad to see and touch. “It was so special to him,” said Vickie.
Another year, when he was sick and unable to attend a lot of games, the team members signed a basketball and brought it to him. “We had it on display at the viewing,” she shared.
When it came to baseball, Shag was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, and  had been to St. Louis to see them play on several occasions. “When they won the World Series, and the trophy was on display the next year at a Johnson City Cardinals game, he was able to go and see it,” Vickie said.
“Harry (Vickie’s husband) and I enjoyed going to games with him. When he was younger, he played both basketball and softball in church leagues. Some of the men he played with included Lawrence Ritchie, John Hardin, and Jarfly Dugger,” his daughter shared.
Aside from baseball, basketball, and football, Shag enjoyed fishing and he and his wife in earlier years had camped some at Little Wilbur and Roan Mountain State Park. His favorite fishing holes were at Douglas Lake, Watauga River, and Watauga Lake. He enjoyed fishing for crappie. “He had his own little boat. His favorite fishing buddy was Larry Grindstaff,” Vickie shared.
She also noted that when he and her mother went camping, he often took his satellite dish with him so he could watch the Cardinal games on television — that’s what you call a die-hard fan.
Shag enjoyed working in his vegetable garden. He grew tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and other vegetables. He would plant them, tend them, and gather them in. “Usually, when he would pick his beans or tomatoes, he would take them to the backdoor, and holler, ‘Mommy, I have you some beans to can,’ or tomatoes or whatever he had gathered,” said Vickie.
Shag Cole was a multi-talented man, who helped build houses for his daughters, and was their biggest cheerleaders in life.
“My daddy loved his family, especially his two grandchildren — Luke and Laura Patton. He doted on them,” said Vickie, who has a sister, Retha Patton.
Shag Cole was a self-taught person, who was ready to explore everything and eager to enlarge his learning experiences. “He took a lot of knowledge to the grave with him,” said Vickie — but he also shared much of it by doing and giving to those around him.

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