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Obituary: Timothy Perry Cole May 16, 1950 – Feb. 13, 2020

“I found this life to be a great adventure and was grateful to be able to learn, grow, love and serve.”

Born in Hartford, CT on May 16, 1950 Tim grew up in Pittsfield, MA where he was a happy, inquisitive, rambling boy who felt deeply at home in the Berkshires. When he was 11, his family moved to Erie, PA but after enduring school bullying, he attended Lenox School in 1965. There he was deeply impressed by their motto “Not to be served, but to serve.” At Lenox he found a multicultural community that nurtured his curiosity, empathy and learning. His interests and intellect were deepened as an exchange student at Rugby School in England.

He attended Dartmouth College, spent his junior year at Krogerup school in Denmark and a semester in his senior year in West Berlin. After graduation he returned to Berlin and Copenhagen. He did his doctoral research in Stuttgart, Germany, and received his PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He enjoyed synthesizing the arts, philosophy, literature, poetry and science, looking for patterns and connections.

Leaving the academic world, Tim moved back to Hartford and became a picture framer. Framing was a satisfying combination of visual and hand skills, and dealing with all sorts of people. He lived in Hartford for the next 31 years and after framing, worked at nonprofit organizations, and as the executive secretary of the state energy efficiency board. A committed volunteer, he was a community leader and activist, working to make the city a better place for the least fortunate, to bring people together and facilitate communication.

Although he thought of himself as a “terminal optimist” Tim was haunted by depression his whole life, and never felt particularly rooted in Hartford, or any line of work. His first rebirth came in his lowest time when he gave a 12-step program a try. He was sober for the rest of his life, and recovery led him back to the Episcopal Church (his family’s faith), and onwards to meditation and yoga.

As he entered his sixties, he yearned to move back to the Berkshires and make art. His second rebirth came in 2012 when he suffered a near fatal heart attack which took him “out to the borderlands of the Beyond”. He returned a changed man. For the first time he felt how much he was loved and his life’s direction was clear. He needed to write and to find a woman to be in a loving open-hearted relationship. Two months later he met Missy Stevens, and shortly after moved to the Litchfield Hills (close to the Berkshires) to live with her. He spent the last eight years of his life writing, photographing, collecting rocks, volunteering, learning, sharing, being the curious, bright, compassionate, opinionated human being he was right to the last. He told everyone that he was the luckiest man in the world. He believed that death is merely the beginning of another chapter in his soul’s progress.

He is survived by his sister Carol Cole Flanagan, brothers Jeffrey Cole and Tom Jackson, niece Patsy Flanagan, nephews Benjamin Cole and Samuel Cole; his bonus daughters Lorna, Megan (and Jonny), Samantha (and Calvin), and his bonus grandchildren Tyrasia, Kaylin, Calvin, Allie and Freya; his cousins here and in Denmark; and a vast array of friends. These are the people who filled his life with joy. All of us miss him terribly.

More Alumni Notes

Leah Hunter ’05 has joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as associate commissioner for external affairs, where she oversees agency-wide communications activities regarding the FDA’s public health and regulatory activities.