Even though he was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1931 and lived in Los Angeles for most of his life, he still considered himself a Jersey boy since that is where he grew up (East Orange), had the fondest and most fun memories, and where, to this day, he still is in close contact with a friend from high school.
He also went to College in New Jersey and graduated ready to be a physical education teacher but, he was drawn to Los Angeles where he had several relatives and quickly got involved in the building business. He went from being a laborer to building contractor and eventually he partnered with a friend and they started their own business. He enjoyed building homes and took pride in selling them. Albeit with mixed emotions; a home he would be delighted to sell, could find a buyer coming back with complaints and requested changes.
During his years in Los Angeles, he met and married Jerry Faibash; raised two children (one of whom died at an early age), and during their 58 years together, they became grandparents of three, all of whom are young adults now.
Jim was a man committed to his Jewish faith. On a trip to Israel, at the age of 53, he had a bar mitzvah (not having had one at the age of 13). He fondly remembers how men were on one side and women on the other side of the temple and that the women threw candy at him as a token of good luck and happiness.
He developed a wise guy sense of humor, blossomed into a very warm and friendly to everyone kind of guy, building homes and volunteering with the Special Olympics and children with special needs. He said the toughest job he ever had was putting on a play called “The William.” He foraged communities for an audience, then sold out almost every performance and raised $29,000 for the Special Olympics. One of the lead actresses, Cheryl, went on to work on television shows. Twenty-five years later, after occasional contact with each other, Cheryl came to visit Jim on Friday Harbor.
And then there was his time playing golf at Mountain Gate, Los Angeles. As the story goes, he found a lighter with an inscription, the name of a new and up and coming movie star. He sought the gentleman out to return it. Samuel L. Jackson was very surprised to hear this and told Jim that most people would usually keep something like that as a souvenir. They struck up a conversation, as Jim was very inclined to do with everyone, and they ended up playing golf together. Jackson admitted he was new to the sport so Jim was a winner on that day. Jackson shared that he included golf in his movie contracts over the next year. When they met again a year later, Jim recalled that Jackson was a way better player and Jackson announced, “I’m going to kick your ass this time little man.” And so, he did.
His sense of humor was always evident, in conversation, or in planning pranks. Like the time his daughter was having a party with her girlfriends. He got together with her father-in-law and the two men decided to dress up as women, Gert and Gertrude, and crash the party.
He’ll also always be remembered for saying, “This is the best meal I have ever had.” He loved eating out and each time would claim the food as something more unique than any other experience he’d had before.
He moved to Friday Harbor when he was 81, intrigued with the island magic, fresh air, friendliness of islanders, and a new and peaceful way of living, in a beautiful home overlooking the San Juan Channel and islands.
Mention his name today to family and friends and amongst all else, they will think of his tasty Manhattan drinks, his expertise as a meat connoisseur (he loved steaks), a joker, lover of murder mysteries, his belief in being kind to all, and his special love for San Juan Island and his role in the plays “Chicago” and “Beauty and the Beast,” at age 83 and 84. He so enjoyed hearing someone say “Hi Judge” when he was in town, referring to his role in Chicago.
Family, Friendship, Theatre. Kindness. Compassion. Witty. Loving. Travel. Enjoyment of life. Sensitivity. That’s how I remember Jim Harris Cole. I am his second wife and have had the privilege of living with him for nine years. He has been a wonderful role model for me and leaves me with a heavy heart but a bounty of courage, compassion and love in my soul.
So instead of raising a glass for a toast to Jim Cole, slather some peanut butter and jelly on a saltine cracker or two and enjoy, just as Jim did every day of his life.
To share memories of Jim, please sign the online guestbook at www.evanschapel.com.