'A real inspiration’: Oldest living Marine casts ballot in Kannapolis, shares voting memories at 107 years old
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (WBTV) - Sgt. Dorothy “Dot” Cole has lived through more than a century’s worth of historical milestones.
One of those most prominent moments was the Woman’s Suffrage Movement, when women fought for the right to vote in this country.
Cole was 7 years old when women were legally permitted to cast their ballots, exactly 100 years ago, in 1920. That’s when Warren G. Harding won the presidential election.
She’s now 107 years old and is documented as the oldest living U.S. Marine in the nation.
Cole lives with her daughter, Beth, in Kannapolis.
Still sharp as a tack, according to Beth, Cole felt the need, and knew the importance of voting in the 2020 election.
Cole cast her ballot at a drive-in voting location last week at the Kannapolis Train Depot.
“She wanted to come out and vote,” Beth said. “She definitely wanted to get out and vote. She thought it was very very important that we do that.”
Beth says her mother has talked about the differences – with the way people voted and the politics – between when she grew up compared to the way it is now.
“She is really upset with the way that people are being so divided,” Beth said. “It has never been so divided in history. It’s at its worst point.”
According to her daughter, Cole’s first recollection of a United States president was Calvin Coolidge, who was elected president in 1924.
Cole has lived through 18 presidents, starting with Woodrow Wilson, who was in office when she was born in 1913.
Beth said Cole’s favorite president was Ronald Reagan. She also admired Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom she voted for three times, in 1932, 1936 and 1940.
“He stayed in office three terms because of the war,” Beth said. “She said everyone wanted him to see the war through because he and Winston Churchill were working so well together to bring the war to an end.”
Beth says who mother remembers as a child that presidents would travel by train and give speeches at the back end of the train.
“Kids would run after the train and would wave the American flags,” Beth said.
Cole, who was born in Warren, Pennsylvania, was a secretary in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945. She first enlisted into the military when she was 29 years old.
Cole enlisted in the Marines shortly after the United States entered World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Beth said, at that time, all of the men went to war, and Cole was on the first line of women to join the Marine Corps.
She met her husband Wiley, who was also in the military, and they moved to California where they have Beth, their only child.
Cole’s husband, Wiley Cole, died in 1955 when Beth was just two years old. They have been living in Cabarrus County – Concord and then Kannapolis – for more than 30 years.
Today, Beth says her mother still watches the news and keeps tabs on the issues going on in the country.
“She watches a lot of news. She just does her research,” Beth said. “She does a lot of reading and research, so she knew who she wanted to vote for.”
Beth says Cole, who lived through Pearl Harbor and the Great Depression and the Vietnam War, was devastated, like the rest of the country, during the attacks of 9/11.
“I knew that when 9/11 happened, it really affected her because she kept saying, ‘We are being attacked on the mainland,’” Beth said. “She can relate to Hawaii being an island and that’s where Pearl Harbor was, and that’s not on the mainland of the United States. This was the first time we had been attacked, and that did really affect her.”
Still, though all the living she has done, Cole dedicated time to do her civic duty, and vote.
She celebrated her 107th birthday on Sept. 19.
Beth calls her mother an “inspiration.”
“It’s a real inspiration for people,” Beth said. “It’s awesome. For my mother to be 107, she is very sharp. I’m very lucky to have her with me.”
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