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Ethel Cole: A whole lot left

Her impressive 200-page autobiography, typewritten herself, has also kept her quite busy.

"I just like to be out and about. Staying active is probably the best thing I can do at my age," she said.

Her life was not always this simple.

Across the country and back

Ethel Frances McPherson Cole was born in 1926 in International Falls, Minn., the ninth of 10 children. Her share of hardships began early. Cole's father, plagued with health problems, died of a stroke at age 56 on Christmas Day 1939. Cole's mother, left with the responsibility of taking care of the children, found it difficult to find work. The Depression and her partial blindness made it even worse.

Cole did her part babysitting her siblings and neighborhood children.

"I feel like I've been looking after kids my entire life," Cole said.

The family was hit hard when the war came to the U.S. Her four older brothers left to join the armed services. Cole acted accordingly as well. She decided to leave school after the ninth grade to work full time. Cole later took a special course program to earn her high school diploma.

"I always heard such great stories about going to college and getting a higher education. It's the one thing I regret not being able to do during my lifetime," Cole said.

At 17, when most teenagers would head off to college, Cole's family moved across the country to Richland, Wash., searching for a better life.

The first of many jobs was at the Army Engineering Depot, in the nearby town of Pasco, Wash.

"I was miserable and bored in Richland," Cole said. "We were living above a bar and I was thoroughly depressed. I was itching to get out."

Cole had to do something to break out of her funk. During one of her uncle's nightly paper readings, she saw the help wanted section, advertising the depot's job openings, and knew she had to take advantage.

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