Dr. Jerry William Cole

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, December 7, 2023

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“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. The ultimate measure of a man’s life is the lives he touched.”

Dr. Jerry William Cole, 85, passed away on Tuesday, November 28, 2023, after a brief illness. Jerry was a man of great wealth – wealth not being measured by possessions, but by the way he was loved and the way he loved his family, friends, and associates.

He was the eldest child of the late Bonita Lucille Mabrey Cole and Burley Doran Cole of Elizabethton. He shared his life with the love of his life and wife of 55 years, Penny Lee Taylor Cole. Together they contributed one son, two daughters and six grandchildren.

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Jerry was a dedicated husband, father, and grandfather, always quick with a picture of one of the grandchildren or a brag about one of their recent accomplishments.

As a youth, he attended Elizabethton City and Carter County schools and was a 1955 graduate of Elizabethton High School. He earned four degrees from East Tennessee State University – a BS in Music Education, an MA in School Administration, an EdS in School Administration and an EdD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

He grew up attending First Baptist Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., where he was active in the youth choirs, and Scouting. He earned the Eagle Scout Award as a youngster and worked as an aquatic instructor in several Boy Scout camps in Tennessee and the Catskill Mountains of New York.

A long-time educator for 57 years, he taught in several schools, serving as a band director and classroom teacher at Elizabethton High School, and Science Hill High School where his bands received many awards for excellence in Tennessee and nationally. As a school administrator, he served as Principal of Henry Johnson Elementary School and later as Assistant Superintendent of the Johnson City Schools.

Following his retirement from public education, Jerry taught 16 years as Associate Professor of Education, and Director of Assessment for the School of Education at Lincoln Memorial University, during which time he received the “Houston Award,” for Exemplary Professional Teaching.

Jerry was very involved in church. He was an active member of the Youth Choir at First Baptist Church of Elizabethton and First Presbyterian Church of Johnson City where he also served as a faithful member of the Chancel Choir, the Bell Choir, and Interim Choir Director. He served as a Deacon, and later as Elder on the Church Session.

He was active in many state and national organizations. He served as President of the Tennessee School Plant Management Association and the National School Plant Management Association. He also served as President of the East Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association, the Tennessee Chapter of Phi Beta Mu, National Honorary Bandmasters Association, and Chairman of the Principal’s Study Council.

He was active in civic and city organizations, serving as an active member of the Dawn of Hope Foundation Board, the Johnson City Public Golf Committee, and the Elizabethton Lions Club. He served for several years on the Board of Directors of the Elizabethton Federal Savings and Loan Bank.

He was an avid golfer, photographer, and computer/database designer.

Those left to cherish his many memories include his wife, Penny Taylor Cole of Johnson City; three children, Benjamin Lee Cole (Karen) of Knoxville, Tenn., Dr. Rebecca Ellen Cole Brown (Mike) of Commerce, Ga., and Dr. Bethany Ann Cole Russell (Scottie) of Alcoa, Tenn.; one sister, Judith Yvonne Cole of Elizabethton, Tenn.; and six grandchildren, Ella Grace Cole, Sammy Lee Brown, Maxwell Cole Brown, Annie Rebecca Brown, Madeline Arden Russell, and Taylor LeAnn Russell.

The family will receive friends from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, December 9, at Tetrick Funeral Home, Elizabethton. A service to celebrate the life of Dr. Jerry William Cole will be conducted at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, December 10, at First Presbyterian Church of Johnson City with Rev. Paul Helphinstine officiating. Music will be under the direction of Lee Ruffin, Larry Dodd, and Laura Champouillon. The graveside service and interment will follow the funeral at Happy Valley Memorial Park. Active pallbearers will be Rick Beeson, Jimmy Hughes, Gary Mabrey, Jim Crumley, Dan Buchanan, Lee Ruffin, Jason Hartley, Jesse Taylor, Leslie Story, Sammy Lee Brown, Maxwell Cole Brown, and Mike Brown. Honorary pallbearers will be Bill Furches, Vince Dial (deceased), Josh Wandell (deceased), David Wetzel (deceased), Randy Coapstick, Jimmy Smithson, Russ Nelson, and Don Humston. Those who prefer memorials in lieu of flowers may make donations to First Presbyterian Church, 105 S. Boone Street, Johnson City, TN 37604. Words of comfort can be shared with the family by visiting our website at www.tetrickfuneralhome.com.

Tetrick Funeral Home of Elizabethton is honored to serve the family of Dr. Jerry William Cole. Office Phone: (423) 542-2232; Obituary Line: (423) 543-4917.