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Joe Cole, Kirkwood Humanitarian, Dies at 94

Cole's service to the community includes founding Club 44.

Updated: 10:16 p.m.

The following information was provided by The Kirkwood-Des Peres Area Chamber of Commerce.

It is with a heavy heart the Chamber sends this notice to inform you of the passing of a truly great Chamber member, businessman and friend. Joe Cole passed away in the morning hours of Sunday, May 13, while in South Carolina. He was 94 years old.

Joe was the founder of Club 44. He was also the recipient of the Chamber's Citizen of the Year Award in 1967, Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, among many other awards and volunteer positions too numerous to list.

Joe was born in Clinton, AR, in 1918. His parents soon moved the family to St. Louis. When he was seven years old, his mother died in childbirth and soon after, he, his father, grandmother and six sisters moved to Kirkwood in a horse-drawn wagon. He had worked for several Kirkwood businesses as well as serving on the police force for a time. During WWII, he joined the Army.

Joe had seven children, including Rushnell, Morris, Julian, Enoch, Chester, Clem and Rosenette. Over the years, many more sought out food and shelter from him, knowing his door was always open to any child in need. He married Rose in 1967.

In 1954, Joe founded Club 44. This Kirkwood based Christian youth organization has as its theme, "Working Together for God and for Country." During the years, hundreds of young people have benefited from the program. Operated locally in cooperation with the Kirkwood-Webster YMCA, the Club sponsors special educational trips. The destination of the trips allows young people to expand their horizons, and is underwritten by each young person working to pay for their own expenses.

Joe's love for the community, his intelligence, deep religious faith, advocacy for children, tireless efforts on behalf of racial harmony, and keen sense of humor, combined with his natural charm and congeniality has won friends and admirers throughout the area. It's likely he had gotten to know every elected official who served the area on the local, state and national level as well as most staff personnel during his lifetime.

Joe was always active in the community, serving on numerous boards and commissions and had been a constant supporter of the Chamber. Joe was beloved in, and around the Kirkwood area. Those of us who knew him personally will remember him as one of the sweetest, and most generous individuals we ever had the good fortune of meeting and calling a friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family; Joe will truly be missed.

Visitation is scheduled for Sunday at from 4-8 p.m. Funeral is scheduled for Monday from 9:30 a.m. at Bopp Chapel to St. Peter Catholic Church for 10 a.m. Mass. Interment National Cemetery.

Antona Brent Smith May 15, 2012 at 12:08 PM
I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Cole. I met him while doing community service work for one organization and summer youth camp planning for another. I found him to be so knowledgeable, warm, and welcoming to a Kirkwood newcomer like myself. Mr. Cole was truly a gentle-man and will be missed.
Tacy P. Flynn May 15, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Joe Cole's passing is a great loss to Kirkwood. He will be missed!
VFCooper May 15, 2012 at 10:54 PM
We know him as Uncle Joe...we saw him recently at another of our relative's funerals--before he went to South Carolina with his youngest daughter. I loved listening to his stories about the family...He told them in such a way that I could almost see and hear those I have never met. We will miss him.
Jean Gutchewsky May 16, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Joe was the finest man our family ever had the honor of knowing! Our children went with him and Club 44 on several trips and they created wonderful memories. He was always ready with a smile and a kind word. His sense of humor was so much fun and his caring personality amazing! He will be deeply missed by so many! His was truly a life well lived!!
Edwina Lucas May 23, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I remember when Joe would pick us up to go swimming at the Brentwood YMCA. That was over 57 years ago. He was a inspiration to me and our community. He will be deeply missed

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