Mines district bids farewell to a legend
It didn't take the masses from Mines district to pack the St Ann's Bay Baptist Church on Saturday, July 14, to show how well loved Owen George Cole Sr was. Countless others from several communities across the parish also turned out to pay last respects to a man some deemed a legend for his contribution to society.
The people of Mines, however, led the tributes to a man who, although hailing from St Ann's Bay, had contributed a lot to that community, founding the Mines Basic School in 1962, and later starting JAMAL classes as he encouraged literacy and earned the nickname 'Teacher.'
He was particularly keen on reading and encouraged all he knew to develop the habit of reading. He travelled far distances each day to get a copy of The Star and The Gleaner, to which he also contributed.
When he died last month at age 82, the community felt a deep sense of loss.
Members of the Mines Community Sports Club made an alternating two-man guard of honour at his coffin throughout the funeral service.
Daughter-in-law Margaret Whyte-Cole in her tribute described Cole as "the closest thing to perfection I've ever known and I'm proud to have his last name."
She challenged others in the family and the community to rise to the challenge and continue his good work.
Several stories were told of the man, including one that said some students at the school, whenever they were to get a beating, they would request to be beaten by 'Teacher Cole', as his beating was not as terrifying as those of the other teachers.
Tributes were plenty and came from the Bamboo Circuit of Churches, Mines Basic School, Mines Community Sports Club, Mount Zion Primary, Mount Zion Past Students' Association, Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning, several family members and friends.
"Teacher Cole didn't have a mean bone in his body," Marcia Morrison, niece-in-law, said in her remembrance.
"You never see him without his Gleaner," someone else remarked.
A book filled with tributes, written by those who knew him best, told the story:
- Teacher Cole was a stalwart in the community.
- He assisted the choir at Mines Methodist Church.
- He was a leader of the Brotherhood group at Mount Zion Baptist Church.
- Daddy was a legend, said his first son Owen George Jr
- His quiet and friendly disposition was worthy of honour.
- He was a generous man who touched and enriched many lives.-- Teacher Cole was an institution.
- The exemplary life he lived will never be forgotten.
- 'OG' wasn't just a teacher, he inspired; a true leader
- He was an organist, treasurer, Brotherhood president, RGD for the people of Mines, Mount Zion and Llandovery Mountain, visionary, and news reporter.
- He was also a music teacher.
- He lived his life serving others.
- Teacher Cole was an awesome teacher.
- He was a patriarch of the community.
A petition has been started to get the name of the Mines Basic School named in Cole's honour.
Whyte-Cole later expressed appreciation to The Gleaner for providing coverage of the funeral, saying it was something Cole would have loved. Speaking to The Gleaner, she too described him as a legend.
"One word to describe him would be legend. He was a legend, a family person, one that was dedicated to not only himself and his family but to the entire community," Whyte-Cole said.