Thomas Houston Cole
October 7, 1924 – April 3, 2021
Chaplain Thomas Houston Cole, 96, passed on Saturday evening, April 3, 2021, after a life filled with service to his church and community. Born in Dayton, Kentucky “Tom” was preceded in death by his wife of almost 60 years, Eleanor Ophelia Cole, RN; parents Rev. Walton R. Cole, Th.D., and Inis F.M. Cole; and brother Rev. Kenneth Cole of Walton, KY. He is survived by his youngest brother, Charles D. Cole, of Granville, OH.
Tom and Ophelia had two sons: Richard and his wife Catherine, residing in McKinney, TX, and Ronald and his wife Sharon, residing in Waco. Tom was ever proud of his two granddaughters, Jennifer Cole (Andy Blankenship) and Rebecca (Mitch) Leininger; and his grandson, Anthony Timsanico. He took joy in his two great-grandsons, Andrew, and Luke.
A WWII veteran, Tom served honorably in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a B-17 radio operator, 8th Air Force, 398th Bomb Group, 601st Bomb Squadron. He truly helped to build the legacy of the Greatest Generation.
Tom was a proud graduate of Baylor University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As a young man, he was named associate pastor of Latonia Baptist Church in Kentucky, and subsequently served as pastor of McLean Baptist Church in Virginia. Upon the family’s return to Texas, Tom joined the Memorial Hermann Health System in 1964, where he served as Director of Pastoral Care for 25 years. During his tenure, Chaplain Cole – an accredited Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor – was responsible for the development of hundreds of chaplains, pastors, and other clinical pastoral educators. The department he led remains the preeminent standard for Clinical Pastoral Education today. Tom was elected President of the American College of Chaplains in 1978-79.
During retirement, Tom and Ophelia served throughout Africa, providing care and counseling to missionaries on behalf of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The couple were founding members of Westbury Baptist Church in Houston, where they both taught Bible classes. Tom was passionate about Baylor basketball, to the point of watching the Finals from his hospital bed (Go Bears!). He loved a good Whataburger or an Arby’s Double Roast Beef, and always found time for a James Coney Island Chili Dog and a chocolate milkshake with a good friend. In lieu of flowers or donations, the family asks that you reach out to your elderly loved ones, who have been so devastated by a sense of loneliness and isolation this past year. Practice compassion, show empathy, share love, and give of yourself by being present.
Tom lived his life his way. He loved his wife passionately and his family deeply. Most importantly, he loved the Lord. He walked the “grassy path of the road not taken”….the path of devotion, contemplation, reconciliation and hope. And so now, Father, he is yours. Amen and Amen.
Saturday, April 17, 2021