Tom Cole: A Central Legacy That Will Live on Forever

MAY HIS LEGACY LIVE ON — Tom Cole, a graduate of Central, will forever have a heart of purple and gold.

Savannah Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Tavis Smiley, a well known writer once said that, “The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave,” and Tom Cole, a proud and faithful alumni of Central High School, will always have his legacy remembered for centuries at his alma mater.

Cole, a graduate of Central High School, was the top of his class in 1983. Being a part of organizations such as baseball and the yearbook staff, Cole strived to be the best that he could be. But while maintaining his academic achievements, Cole found his main recognition on the Stanley Farmer football field for the four years of his high school career.

“When I began my career as a sports writer at News-Free Press in 1981, I was privileged enough to do my very first feature story on a young man named Tom Cole. What an absolute beast on the playing field. Tom Cole was and still is the finest football player to wear the purple and gold since the school moved to Highway 58. And I’ve seen just about all of them. He was ferocious at linebacker and a member of Centrals last truly great team,” commented Cole’s friend, James Beach.

Not only was Cole considered a “super star” on the field, but he was a “super star” in the hallways of Central among his fellow team and classmates.

There were quite a few stories of Tom and his high school days that his teammates shared as we became friends.  Usually they were stories of Tom’s athletic abilities or befriending the kids that tended to be “invisible” in high school – one friend commented how Tom could have walked thru the halls like the “big man on campus” being a star football and baseball player, but Tom was always friendly and humble, even at that age.” stated his wife, Michelle Cole.

After graduating high school, Cole received a full ride football scholarship to the University of New Mexico and graduated from the university with a Bachelor’s Degree in University Study.

“After college, I coached at Memphis State under Joe Lee Dunn as an outside linebacker coach,” shared Cole, in a previous article.

He then left his job as a coach and went to the San Francisco Bay area, where he was a counselor for troubled teens. During this time, he took part in camping, learning wilderness skills, and even group therapy.

“I returned to Tennessee in 2008 and have worked with Newman and Sons, painting with Randy Newman,” commented Cole, in the same previous article written October of 2016.

Cole then married his wife, Michelle, in 2014. [Cole] believed it was the best decision he ever made.

“When I first met Tom, to be honest with you the first thing I thought was how handsome he was!  But, seriously, I found him to be fascinating!  Tom lived an adventurous life; whether it was living in California being an extra for a movie or TV sitcom or working in New Mexico as a taxi cab driver during the night and spending his days writing screen plays.   He believed in living life to the fullest and he did just that.  Tom was not only my husband, but my best friend and chosen companion,” shared Michelle.

As the days for Tom and Michelle were finally relaxing, in the summer of 2016, Cole was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was soon put on chemo treatment after his diagnosis.

“When we first heard about Tom’s illness, dedicating the last home game to him was kind of a thing we just needed to do. As a Central family, we stay at eachother’s aide,” said Central principal Finley King, who was one of Cole’s fellow classmates in high school.

After many fundraisers and many, many prayers, on February 17, 2017, Cole lost in his battle against pancreatic cancer and was buried a few days later.

“From the day we met till the day Tom passed away was actually five years to the day.  Although our time was cut short, and has left me saddened and broken hearted it was the best five years of my life and I have no regrets.  I am truly honored to have the title of Mrs. Thomas Gavin Cole,” commented Michelle.

Tom Cole was a true legacy at Central High School. Through his acts as a leader in his amazing life and his strive to push forward even in the darkest of times, Tom Cole will forever be in the minds of generations of Central students and will forever have a heart of purple and gold that will shine even in the acts of the darkest times. Rest in peace.