Dorothy Schmidt Cole, who was recognized as the oldest living U.S. Marine back in September 2020, died of a heart attack at her daughter’s home Thursday. She was 107.
The Associated Press reports that Beth Klutzz, the woman’s only child, confirmed on Friday that her mother had died of a heart attack, several months after her birthday.
Cole, who also went by the nickname “Dot,” sought to join the U.S. Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor out of a desire to help the country in a time of need, she told Military Times in an interview last year. But when Cole was turned down by the Navy due to her height — she was only 4’11” — she set her sights on joining the U.S. Marines.
“I decided to go with the Marines,” Cole told The Independent Tribune in September of 2020. “I even took flying lessons of about 200 hours, thinking it would impress the Marines. But it didn’t. They put me behind a typewriter instead of an airplane.”
Cole spent two years at a firing range in Quantico, Virginia, where she typed correspondences for officers between 1943 until the end of the war in Japan. While in the service, she also met Wiley Cole, the man who would later become her husband. Cole went on to have two grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
Back in 2020, she told The Independent Tribune that one of the most memorable moments of her time serving was receiving a letter from her future husband describing the end of the war. “He wrote and told me that all the military forces came together to attack Japan. Many ships were hit, and lots of fighting. So when we heard the war was over, everyone was very happy. Japan had been bombed on August of ’45, and they discharged me on December of ’45. I remember a group of us Marines were discharged at the same time. We all left on a train and many of us ladies were singing,” she recalled.
“It was through letters that I got all the news. I received letters from my future husband, who was in the Navy and was on the USS Hornet,” she also said.
The Charlotte Observer reports that after the war, she moved to San Francisco, married Wiley Cole, and was hired by a research center subsequently incorporated by NASA. Her husband died in 1955, two years after her daughter was born, and she never remarried.
Cole moved to South Carolina to be closer to her only daughter back in 1979. Klutzz said that she started talking about her mother’s age, and how she might be the oldest female Marine, when she turned 103, but Cole wasn’t officially reached out to until just ahead of her 107th birthday.
“I think some other Marines from the Marine Corps League, when she was getting ready to turn 107, they got in touch with headquarters up by the Pentagon there in Washington, and they were able to do the research, and they said, ‘Not only is she the oldest female Marine, but she is actually the oldest Marine as of September 2020,'” said Klutzz, reports The Charlotte Observer.
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