Donald E. Cole, Sr. a highly successful and well respected Baldwinsville business man, passed away June 16, 2017, surrounded by his loving family. He was born on April 18, 1931, to the late Floyd and Esther (Perkins) Cole. Don was best known for the Cole Muffler chain he began in the mid-1960s. Cole Muffler went from a single store in the back of the Fulton Spring Service to an empire totaling over 50 shops in Upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. The business was built on superb service, outstanding value and honesty, traits that were uncommon in the automotive world at the time.
While Cole Muffler was the most visible of his companies, early on Don also sold used cars, owned laundromats, had apartments, sold swimming pools and power tools. In his “leisure time,” he built his own Baldwinsville home and others along the Seneca River. He loved to frequent “Three Rivers Inn” and met numerous famous celebrities from the 1950s and 60s music scene. Always a fan of music, Don was a member of the “Shamrocks” Drum and Bugle Corps, keeping the beat while marching in numerous Fireman’s Field Day Parades. Don was a stellar running back in high school and loved to root for the Syracuse University Football team.
Don also enjoyed nice cars and fast boats. His Mahogany Chris Crafts were typically the fastest on the Seneca River. Later he would trade in the fast boats for ever-bigger cruisers. This brought him up to Alexandria Bay. He loved “The Bay” area so much that he bought Bonnie Castle Yacht Basin and developed it into a major resort. Along the way, he also developed many other businesses such as Fireside Inn, Seneca and Castle Cable TV, Tri-County Mall, Dollar Depot, Baldwinsville Microtel and many others. In Florida, he had Tidewater Apartments and “Septembers” Nightclub, one of the finest in South Florida.
Don was a proud veteran of the Army during the final days of the Korean Conflict. He was involved in the helicopter service and often related stories of the generals and celebrities he flew to entertain the troops and eventually to sign the documents to end the war. Rarely did he speak about transporting wounded soldiers, but it moved him deeply. He was always a proud American.
It seems that everyone has their favorite “Don Cole” story. He was not one to be an executive, usually wearing normal work clothes rather than a suit and tie. People would be amazed that he would be knee deep in pouring concrete or paving a parking lot. He loved to build things and always worked on a grueling, self-imposed deadline. He reveled in watching people enjoy his ideas and the fruits of his labor.
Charity work was always closest to his heart. Don was instrumental in early fund raising efforts for the local ambulance and fire departments. St Mary’s Church and School were major beneficiaries of his efforts as well. When the hospital in Alexandria Bay was in danger of closing, Don rose to the occasion with numerous fund raising events to keep it open. All of these efforts earned him numerous awards from Chambers of Commerce and Civil Organizations in Baldwinsville and Alex Bay. He devoted his entire life to making Central New York a better place to live.
The world has lost one of the most hard working and inspired people of his age. His influence and love has been felt by thousands of people and he will be greatly missed.
Don was predeceased by his brother, Bill Cole, sister, Ethel Johnson, and daughter-in-law, Barbara Cole.
Surviving are his high school sweetheart and wife of 64 years, Catherine M. Nye Cole; sister, Marie Collins, children, Donald (Anita) Cole, Jr., William Cole and Catherine (Marc) Fernandez; always close to his heart are his grandchildren, Donald “Decker” Cole III, Adam Cole, Lindsay (Dennis) Wellman, Mason “Mickey” Cole, Christopher Cole, Zander Cole, Emily and Elizabeth Fernandez. He would claim to be too young, but he also had seven great-grandchildren, as well, Nicholas, Shane, and Alex Wellman, Ella and Lily Cole, and Joey and Sophia Cole. Remarkably, all live in the Baldwinsville area. Don is also survived by numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. He would often joke that he was related to half the population of Baldwinsville.
Services were held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 20, at Falardeau Funeral Home, 93 Downer St., Baldwinsville, followed by a noon mass of Christian burial at St. Mary’s Church, 47 Syracuse St., Baldwinsville. Calling hours are 3-7 p.m., Monday, June 19, at Falardeau Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in his memory to the Baldwinsville Ambulance Corps or to the Baldwinsville Fire Department.
The family would like to thank the staff at St. Camillus and Senior Home Care Solutions for the care they provided to Don.