Ruth Ellen Cole

Durango native Ruth Ellen Cole died Wednesday, August 15, 2012, at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango. She was 87.

Mrs. Cole was born March 24, 1925, in Durango, the daughter of Garland and Rena (Troutt) Neel. She graduated from Durango High School in 1942 and attended Fort Lewis at the old campus south of Hesperus, where she served as editor of the yearbook and graduated in 1944. She then attended Colorado A&M, now Colorado State University, and earned a degree in home economics.

Mrs. Cole was hired as an extension agent in Routt County. While living and working in Steamboat Springs, she met a cattleman, James William Cole. They married on her parents’ wedding anniversary, Dec. 20, 1947, at the Methodist Church in Durango.

In 1949, the Coles purchased a ranch on Florida Mesa and moved their herd of cattle to Durango on the railroad. Mrs. Cole was a proud hardworking ranch wife, her family said. She cooked for hay crews in the summer, including many members of the DHS football team in the 1970s.

Mrs. Cole made many life-long friends of customers and co-workers from the railroad, where she was an attendant on the Cinco Animas and Nomad railcars from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. She would serve beverages, retell local history and name all the wildflowers growing along the route.

At home, she was an avid gardener and cooked and canned delectable foods. Family and friends fondly recall her chicken and dumplings, homemade bread, canned pickles and other recipes she gladly shared with anyone who asked. The family would gather at the Coles’ house on Sunday nights for pizza and watching “Bonanza” on TV. Mrs. Cole would spend quiet time doing word-search puzzles, reading and caring for her beloved dog Bonnie and more than 80 orchids.

She was a charter member of the La Plata County Cowbelles and served as the group’s president five times. In 1981, she was honored with the Cattleperson of the Year award from the La Plata County Cattlemen’s Association, and she received the Colorado Cattlewoman of the Year award in 2002. She also volunteered at the United Methodist Thrift Store for many years. And she treasured a group of women who called themselves the “Remnants,” all graduates of the old Fort Lewis who once a month gathered for lunch to reminisce.

Mrs. Cole was preceded in death by her husband, James William Cole, in 2006; and her granddaughter Cristin Luzar in 2001.

She is survived by her sons James G. Cole of Phillipsburg, Kan., Ray Cole of Fort Collins, and J. Roger Cole of Durango; her daughter, Barbara Morgan, of Durango; and six grandchildren, one great-grandchild and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

A funeral will be held 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, at Hood Mortuary Chapel. Burial will occur at Florida Cemetery in Durango.