Nov8WedRetrospective #48 November 8, 2017 Randy C. Hicks
Retrospective #48 Captain Ray Cole
Randy C. Hicks
It was my first appointment as a newly minted Salvation Army officer with the rank of Lieutenant. I was sent to a small outport community to a corps that had been struggling for a number of years. I was too green and excited (a little scared) to realize that this was, among other things, a test. I would later learn that certain of our leaders back in the day weren’t sure I’d make it. They didn’t think I would “stand for it”. The first year of doing something new is likely a “make or break” time in any vocation or calling. Yet here I am, thirty nine years later and yes, I’m as surprised as you are!
It may not astound you however to know that I had help getting through. My dad’s original birthplace was just five kilometers or so away. His brother, my uncle – married, and with family, lived there still as well as an unmarried aunt. They would see to it that I didn’t go hungry or without clean clothes. Although the need never arose I could also stay with them overnight.
In the meantime, soon after arriving and getting established I would also be “adopted” by the United Church minister and his wife. Reverend Ray Cole and his dear wife Gwen would act as “emergency-go-to-folk” should there be a glitch in the above arrangement. They opened their home to me and kept an eye on me. Ray would have been about fifty-four years old at that time and thus more than twice my age! I was just a “green nineteen!”
I would learn that Ray’s family of origin had been the very town we were in and he too had extended family nearby. Although born there, he had grown up in practically the same neighbourhood as me – except he was on the “other side of the tracks”. Although belonging to the United Church of Canada, still in his younger days he had played an instrument in one of the local SA corps bands. We knew a lot of the same people or families from our twin towns and I would later learn that my parents, although not acquainted, knew of him. Having very similar “humour vibes” we got along very well!
Both Ray and Gwen, along with extended family in those days fit well into several definitions of the word “angel”. They helped me stay on my feet. They helped me stand!
Now at first you may find this hard to believe but of all the “angels” mentioned above Ray was the only one who actually had wings! He did! You see I soon learned that Raymond Cole was a veteran of World War Two, and his wings, having a thirty-one meter span, came attached to a “Lancaster Bomber”!
[[-The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber. It was designed and manufactured by Avro as a contemporary of the Handley Page Halifax, both bombers having been developed to the same specification, as well as the Short Stirling, all three aircraft being four-engine heavy bombers adopted by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the same wartime era.-]]
Ray was one of those who got to come home, get married, have a family, follow a chosen career path, switch to ministry in his beloved church, serve in what was his place of birth, go on to take numerous charges thereafter until he received his final promotion – his Promotion to Glory!
There is so much more I could say about this saint of God. I realize that my attempt at humour above may have been a little lame but you see when it came to matters of faith and trust – Ray did indeed know how to fly! He waited on God making his wings strong and helping him to rise like an eagle! He became a “big brother” figure, the tutor I needed to guide me and help to further train me on many of my “first flights” in ministry.
Lest we forget!
Sadly I didn’t get to see Ray much after that first year although we crossed paths occasionally in a mall or at an airport. Even sadder, I learned only recently that he had passed back in 2011… And yes, sadder still, I never really told him how much he meant to me…
Is there a “Ray” in your life who might be lifted by your gratitude today?
The following is the obituary (abridged) of one of my greatest encouragers:
Raymond Boyde Cole, CD July 14, 1924 – May 4, 2011. Born in Elliston, NL, on July 14, 1924, Ray grew up in Grand Falls. He was educated at Grand Falls Academy from where he graduated with honours in 1941. During WW II, he served with the Royal Air Force in Europe and completed several tours of bombing operations in his much-loved Lancaster. He returned to Newfoundland in 1946, following a medical discharge. Raymond studied accounting and worked in managerial positions in various fields, including Insurance, Road & Building Construction, and Forest Harvesting. In 1974, he entered full-time ministry with the United Church of Canada, serving a number of Pastoral charges throughout Newfoundland. During his ministry, Rev. Ray had the honour of performing weddings for two of his grandchildren and christened three great-grandchildren. He retired from the ministry in 1996, only to return to work at least six or seven times, finally retiring in 2011. Shortly after Confederation, Ray was commissioned in the rank of Pilot Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He worked with all three elements of the Cadet organization until 1964, when upon reaching the compulsory retirement age; he retired with the rank of Captain. On May 11, 2002 he was appointed Honourary Colonel of #9 Wing, Canadian Forces Base Gander, and remained in this position until September 11, 2006, when he retired and reverted to his service rank of Captain. In December, 2008, Ray was awarded the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation in recognition of his ongoing contribution to the care and well-being of veterans. A lover of classical music, Ray will always be remembered for his musical abilities, his fingers able to dance across the keyboard without a note of music in front of him. His sense of humor, love for others, and commitment to whatever task he undertook are the cornerstones of his personality and he has touched the lives of many people throughout his life.
Lest we forget…