Henry P. Cole, Jr. passed away in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Oct. 14, 2020, of COVID-19. He had just celebrated his 83rd birthday.
Henry Cole was a rare gem; he lived a full and multifaceted life as an academic, outdoorsman, scientist, hockey player, teacher, singer and beloved partner and friend. Henry was born in New York City on Sept. 21, 1937, to Henry P. Cole and Katherine Bullock Cole. He attended Buckley School in New York City and then St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. He graduated from Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1959, with a BS in physics, and earned his Master's in physics from Michigan State University in 1963. Henry moved to Alaska in 1969 and completed his doctorate in upper atmospheric physics in 1977 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.
From his early childhood, Henry's family spent summers at their rural home on the Common in Royalston, Massachusetts, not far from Mount Monadnock, where he fell in love with woods, streams, waterfalls and mountains. During the early 1960s, Henry began mountain climbing and hiking, spending summers bushwhacking throughout Colorado, the Tetons, Sierra Nevada and Canadian Rockies. After coming to Alaska, he added the Chilkoot Trail, the Wrangle Mountains, areas of Rainbow Mountain, McCarthy and the Castner Glacier; and years of hiking, skiing and snowshoeing right outside his front door, down into Smallwood Valley. He participated in the Tanana River Raft Races; rafted the Yukon, and canoed the Chena, Tanana and Delta rivers, among others.
He recited beautiful, moving poems around campfires, on the rivers and trails, and at many other gatherings; and entertained with singing and guitar at his joyful and memorable September equinox potlucks. Henry was a singer from the time he was a soprano until the end of his life as a baritone. During the 60s he performed in summer stock Broadway musical theater up and down the New England coast and was a member of The Blue Hill Troupe in NYC, a Gilbert & Sullivan group. In Fairbanks, he helped found Fairbanks Light Opera Theater and performed in many of their productions. He performed in the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festivals in choruses, cabaret and opera workshops, and sang regularly in the University Community Chorus and the annual Fairbanks Sing it Yourself Messiah.
In the mid-60s, Henry became fascinated with photosynthesis and enrolled in Columbia University taking graduate courses in biology and marine geology. This led to work as an oceanographer for Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory aboard the RV Conrad, doing biological and acoustics research throughout world oceans. One voyage, to Africa, enabled him several days of trekking on Mount Kilimanjaro. He loved this work; but by 1968, Kipling's Red Gods of the mountains and rivers were calling him out, and he had to go.
Henry moved to Fairbanks in 1969 and enrolled as a doctoral student at the Geophysical Institute. While pursuing his Ph.D., Henry took on a variety of projects and jobs. He built his log cabin on a hill at the top of an impossible road. This became a lifelong endeavor, believing that if "house finished, life over." He played hockey with the UAF Nanooks, and then on the Old-timers Leagues well into the 2000s. He taught classes in celestial navigation and meteorology while working as a research assistant at the Geophysical Institute and worked on the trans-Alaska pipeline at the Yukon River pump station. After completing his Ph.D., Henry worked at Poker Flat Rocket Range in Fairbanks and then accepted a post-doctoral position as a consultant in atmospheric chemistry at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
After his post-doc, Henry returned to Fairbanks to continue teaching in mathematics and physics, as well as creating public policy courses in science, technology, development and risk. He also worked as a building contractor; his company was called BTF Construction, which stood for Beat to Fit.
Henry had an enormously wonderful sense of humor. In 1986, Henry was appointed science adviser to Gov. Steve Cowper in Juneau where he earned the affectionate title of Dr. Science from his colleagues. He assisted with the establishment of the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation; worked on sustainable energy, global climate change and rare earth issues; and helped initiate commercial rocketry in Alaska. In 1991, Henry returned to teaching in Fairbanks and also volunteered tutoring for GED students. In additional to having his own consulting company, Henry completed a course and certification through MIT in Systems Dynamics and gave talks, seminars and taught courses in societal problem solving using modeling methods of this program.
Henry Cole - a true Renaissance man - lived a rich, ethical and purposeful life, always involved in the things he felt to be of deep importance: science, poetry, mathematics, athletics, education and music. His friendships were life long, and he never lost his commitment to learning or to teaching. Henry was a patient, respectful, kind-hearted man. He never had an ill word for anyone. Henry's dear friend from the 60s, Fred Jolly, expressed Henry's loss so eloquently: "We explored the wilderness and climbed the heights together. We conducted oceanographic research together while at Columbia U. And in every context he displayed competence, humor, fortitude, ambition, and a striving for excellence. We both know the joy of having a companion of Henry's caliber - a rare privilege few ever know. Instead of grief, I must choose gratitude."
Henry was predeceased by his parents and sister, Alice Cole Jones of New York, and cousin, Jane Cole Graves of Texas, and many aunts, uncles and cousins throughout the US. Henry is survived by his partner of 33 years, Susan Logue of Fairbanks; cousins, Fleur Weymouth of New Hampshire; Fair Alice McCormick, Bunny Bullock and Richard Bullock of Massachusetts; Helen Graves of New York City; Sally Graves Jackson, California; numerous nephews and nieces, and a great many friends.
Henry requested to be laid to rest in Royalston, Massachusetts. If desired, gifts to organizations that serve Henry's interests would be fitting and appreciated. A memorial service will hopefully be held this summer or fall. Memories and stories to share with Henry's family are most welcome.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Feb. 28, 2021.