Cover photo for Cecil Cole's Obituary
1925 Cecil 2023

Cecil Cole

June 24, 1925 — June 12, 2023

Cecil Covil Cole, 97, a longtime Choteau resident, farmer and rancher–passed away on Monday, June 12th at the Benefis Teton Medical Center after a brief injury.

Cec was born to Marvin Jay Cole and Jennie E. Kimball Cole on June 24th, 1925, in Frazee, Minnesota. His siblings were Alvin, Pearl, Harold, Edith, Opal and Lyle. He was the youngest of the seven children.

Growing up in Minnesota, during the Great Depression, Cec learned the discipline of hard work at an early age. When he was just five years young, he had to milk the cows before school and then again in the evening. Later at the age of 14, he got his first real paying summer job where he earned $1 a day working morning, noon and night at a nearby farm. At age 15, he got a job working on the railroad laying tracks, pounding spikes, and more.

Cec was an athlete. He was the captain of the track and football team as a junior. He lettered all four years in high school in three sports: football, basketball and track. He scored the first touchdown on the new Frazee High School football field that he helped build. He loved track and set a state record in the 440-yard dash. He continued to play basketball and baseball on town teams into his twenties.

In September of 1943, Cec enlisted into the U.S. Navy. He was stationed at Camp Bennion in Farragut, ID for bootcamp. While at bootcamp, Cec met his future wife, Maxine, on a blind date at a roller-skating rink in Spokane, WA. After coming home from the war, Cec married Maxine on August 1, 1946. They enjoyed 62 years of life together.

Following bootcamp, Cec went to San Diego Naval Hospital Corps School. Here he received his training to become a Pharmacist Mate. After which, he was sent to Bremerton, WA to work on the surgery ward. Eventually, he was transferred overseas to Okinawa, Japan on an APA Transport. Stationed in Okinawa, Cec endured many hardships, including a typhoon that resulted in mass devastation. Being attached to the 5th Marine Division with the 5th Medical Battalion his next assignment was scheduled to attack Japan during Operation Downfall. The bomb was dropped, Japan surrendered, and the assignment was changed to China at the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War.

Cec completed his tour of duty with the Navy and was discharged in February of 1946. After this, he returned home to finish high school, moved to Montana, was married and started work at Sturgis Hardware in Choteau.

In 1948 and 1949 Cec and his father-in-law, Kenneth Sturgis, purchased farm and ranch properties north of Farmington, MT. It is here where Cecil lived for the next 70 years, until moving to the Skyline Lodge in 2019.

Cecil learned to farm and ranch through the school of hard knocks. Over the years, he worked many 100+ hour weeks flood irrigating, calving and seeding when it took many days to plow and sow just a few acres. His leadership by example instilled a hard work ethic into both his children and grandchildren.

When it came to ranching, Cecil had a natural rapport with animals which were always at ease around him. His early years of ranching included most types of livestock–chickens, turkeys, pigs, horses, milk cows and beef cattle. He worked extremely hard to never lose a baby calf. At one time, he brought a freezing newborn calf into the house to be the first to use the new bathtub and to be warmed-up. His gentle heart was an admired strength.

After retiring, Cec continued to help his son (Rodney) on the farm. He continued to flood-irrigate over 600 acres of hay and grain often at night with a flashlight. He continued to drive tractor and helped with harvest until 90 years of age. Through it all, Cecil witnessed the farm change from mower and hand-tie wire balers to swathers and round bales. He witnessed harvest change from pull-type combines, hauling grain in wagons, shoveling grain into wooden bins to air-conditioned combines, augers and semi-grain trucks. With humility and grit, Cec adapted to it all.

Cecil served many years on the Choteau School Board and Teton County ASCS Board. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, American Legion, United Methodist Church and Choteau Lions Club. Cec liked to travel, was an avid hunter and a dedicated Choteau Bulldog and Minnesota Vikings’ fan. Most recently, he was actively involved in playing ping pong, cards and bingo at the Skyline Lodge.

Cecil loved his family and friends more than anything and they knew it. He was a true patriot who loved God and his country. His pure heart, humility and tenacity to live life fully has left a lasting legacy to many. Simply stated, he defined the greatest generation and will be missed greatly.

Survivors include his sons Jay (Jeanine) of Helena, Rodney (Caroline) of Choteau and daughter Barbara (Gary) McManus of Great Falls. Grandchildren include Jamie Cole of Livingston, Alan (Donna) Cole of Helena, Laura (Chad) Bishop of Missoula, Stephanie (DJ) Luscher of Los Alamos, NM, Rachel (Scott) Harter of Gig Harbor, WA, and Nathan (Carolina) McManus of Seattle, WA. Great-grandchildren include Tristen and Cierra Cole, Jacob and Clara Bishop, Cole Luscher, and Axel and Jett Harter.

A memorial service will be held Friday, July 7th at 11:00 AM at the Choteau United Methodist Church. Cremation has taken place under the direction of Frontier Funeral Home. Following burial, with military honors, at the Choteau Cemetery, there will be a luncheon at the Stage Stop Inn.

Memorials are suggested to the Choteau Lions Club Swimming Pool, American Legion C. James Smith Post #6 or donor’s choice.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Cecil Cole, please visit our flower store.

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Friday, July 7, 2023

5:00 - 6:00 pm (Pacific time)

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