Occupation: Retired nursing professor; community volunteer.
Family: Married to Walter Cole; five grown children: Bonnie Nelson, Greg Hixson, Kathryn Willingham, Elizabeth Roberts and Laura Wood; seven grandchildren - six girls and one boy.
The pay Susan Cole gets from the hard work she does with various organizations in the community won’t give her anything to put in her wallet. What she gets out of her community work, she says, can’t be counted in dollars or cents. The retired nursing professor says she gets immense satisfaction from donating her time and energy to a variety of charities, from the Hearing and Speech Foundation to Fine Arts Blount.
Susan is on the board of the Hearing and Speech Foundation and New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center. Susan also serves on the Leadership Blount Alumni Committee. She and her husband also support such charities as Fine Arts Blount, Friends of the Smokies and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
Susan says there is always something someone can do to help with non-profit organizations - from simply sitting down and answering a telephone to licking envelopes, mailing letters or running errands. “There are so many little things that are appreciated. You don’t have to have talent, just a desire to do it,” she said.
Susan has not been as visible in recent months because her husband, Walter, developed cancer and was also diagnosed with Guillian-Barre, which is an auto-immune disorder. “Antibodies in the body attack the peripheral nervous system. It came on suddenly, within 12 hours. He was very, very, very sick.”
The Guillian-Barre causes paralysis, and Walter has spent time at Blount Memorial Hospital, Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and now is going through rehabilitation at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville.
“He is a miracle,” says Susan. “He is moving and doing more. He is once again becoming pretty self-sufficient.”
This past weekend Walter and Susan enjoyed the Away Game Tailgate Party at Neyland Stadium to benefit the Hearing and Speech Foundation. “He can walk, but not great distances. We went to the Away Game Tailgate Party. That was his first official outing, and we had a great time.”
Susan was born in Washington, D.C., and her parents moved to Mobile, Ala., in 1950. She grew up and went to high school and college in Mobile. That is where she and Walter met.
Walter worked with Ruby Tuesday corporate. When the home office was moved to Maryville, they transferred to Blount County 11 years ago.
“When he retired two years ago, we found we had fallen in love with Blount County and decided to stay.”
Here is Susan Cole:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“While I look just like my Dad and had his temperament when I was young, I have evolved to be more like my mother. She had so very many talents of which I share so few. But, the two most obvious to me are my joy of entertaining and my love of Christmas. For mother, every occasion within the family was a reason to get together. But it was Christmas into which she put her many talents and energy. “
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
‘“Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn,’ from Gone with the Wind. This was the first novel I read of my own volition, and it is my very favorite movie.”
How do you like your steak?
“Medium rare. Maybe it is the combination of the term ‘medium’ with the term ‘rare’ that confuses the chef. My steaks are often either rare or well-done. So, I’m just as happy with liver and onions, especially from AJ’s.”
What are you guilty of?
“An obsessive compulsive disorder. Everything must be organized, or I can’t function. It drives my family and friends crazy.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“My photo albums. They record our parents, children, grandchildren, family, and friends and all of the special events that have touched our lives.”
Who has been the most influential person in the 20th Century?
“I think it is Bill Gates. Our world is now global and our boundaries are limitless because of his technology. Our communication is instant. Surgery can be performed halfway around the world, and the smallest of happenings in isolated areas now make world headlines. I can’t begin to wrap my mind around where this technology will lead us next.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“For our first Thanksgiving in our river home, we hosted the entire family. Determined to be the ‘hostess with the mostest,’ like Martha Stewart, I did all of the cooking, which included baking my first turkey. While carving Mr. Tom, paper began to appear. Please explain to me why anyone would want to stuff a turkey’s body parts, wrapped in paper, in the bird’s cavities and not warn the cook?”
If you only had a week to live, what would you do and why?
“First, I would gather my family together, pull out the photo albums and revisit our memories that have become the thread of our lives. I would tell each one how much I love them and how each has blessed my life. And, we would end our visit with prayer. Then, I would gather with all of my friends, pull out more photo albums, and share the events and stories that brought us and kept us together. Again, I would tell each one how my life has been blessed with their love and friendship and we, too, would end with a prayer. Then, we’d break out the food, put on some good ’50s and ’60s music and party me on my way.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Generous. I guess because I believe in a giving and sharing heart. It makes my heart happy.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I would like to have more patience.”
What is your passion?
“Service to others, especially children. Giving of our money, time and talent means so much to so many. If you can’t do all three, pick one.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My maternal grandfather. He was a man of many talents and interests. He hooked rugs, made quilts and afghans, painted and made the best fresh blueberry pie I’ve ever tasted. During my visits, he would take me sightseeing throughout Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, pointing out historic sites and sharing the local history. So, our lunch would have to be in his kitchen, eating his Red-flannel Hash and blueberry pie, and looking through his photo albums and listening to his history of our family.”
What are your hobbies or what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
“After moving to Maryville, I was determined to learn how to pickle and can vegetables. I’m told I make delicious pickled okra. I wouldn’t know. I don’t eat okra in any form. This year, I canned tomatoes and homemade applesauce for the first time. I smile every time I hear those lids ‘pop.’ And, I love taking pictures.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“To celebrate a special birthday and anniversary, I was surprised with diamond earrings. I enjoy my earrings, and my husband enjoys my appreciation.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.”
Who is your hero?
“My husband, Cole. He is such a gentle soul with a kind spirit. He is the epitome of a Southern gentleman at all times -- polite, courteous, considerate, soft-spoken, gentle and patient. He is a devoted husband, father, employee and friend. He is a Rotarian who upholds the “4-Way Test” every day. He is my best friend, biggest supporter and the strength of our family. He also has a wicked sense of humor.”