Willard James "Jim" Cole

Obituary
15 entries | 1 photo
  • "Jim became part of my life when he and Norma got married. ..."
    - Kathleen Christianson
  • "Jim was a special person. I first met him when he became my..."
  • "Jim, you were such an inspiration to us and to our..."
  • "I'll always remember Jim as an extraordinarily bring and..."
    - Jack McGowan
  • "Norma- My prayers are with you and your family. God Bless..."
    - Sharon Minton
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Jim Cole Willard James "Jim" Cole, 75, lost his courageous year-long battle with bladder cancer on February 21, 2017, surrounded by his family. Born in 1941, Jim grew up in Hatfield, Pa., excelling in football and mathematics. He received his Bachelor's Degree from Lehigh University on an academic scholarship, and married his high school sweetheart, Karen Rodenhausen. Together, they had three children, Mike, Doug and Amber. Jim spent his early career as an engineer working on national defense radar systems, first at Bell Labs in Morristown, N.J., and later at Syracuse Research Corporation in Manlius, N.Y. A lifelong learner, he also began graduate studies, earning a Masters Degree in electrical engineering from MIT, a Doctorate in mathematics from Columbia University and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 1979, with the nation facing a crippling energy crisis, Jim embarked on a new focus in energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainability, passions that would keep him energized for nearly 40 years. At the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in Albany, N.Y., he encouraged companies throughout the state to add energy efficiency to their operations. Over 12 years, his team was responsible for saving hundreds of millions of kilowatt hours of electricity through implementing improved heating, cooling and solar energy systems. After Karen's passing in 1984, Jim met and soon married Norma Kirkman. Over the next 32 years, together with her children Jason and Spencer, they embarked on a life of adventure and enlightenment. In 1990, Jim landed his dream job as Director of the California Institute for Energy Efficiency at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he led large-scale energy research projects. Jim's team collaborated with both public and private institutions in California to increase investments in energy efficiency throughout the state. Jim "retired" in 2002, although his five children insist he failed to slow down. He continued to consult for the California Energy Commission, while joining Norma to help co-found an intentional living community, Oak Creek Commons, in Paso Robles, Calif., where they have lived ever since. Jim was also involved in the broader Central Coast community as a volunteer, founding the Institute for Sustainable Living, and launching the Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo Transition Town movement to help curb the community's reliance on fossil fuels. An avid gardener, Jim was interested in permaculture, and established a certification curriculum in San Luis Obispo county. He was also a member of Awakening Ways Spiritual Community. Jim is survived by his wife Norma; his sister Pat; his five children Mike (Angella), Doug (Susan), Amber (David), Jason (Angela) and Spencer (Sera); and his six grandchildren Cyrus, Sam, Bella, Karenna, Max and Cruz. His spirit of unselfishly giving his time and attention to build a better, more sustainable world will live on in those that knew and loved him. A memorial service will be held at 1:30 pm, Sunday, March 19, 2017, at Pavilion on the Lake in Atascadero. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in honor of Jim at One Cool Earth (onecoolearth.org/join-us). Sign his guestbook at sanluisobispo.com/obituaries
Published in San Luis Obispo County Tribune on Feb. 26, 2017