CHARLESTON, IL – Gary Neal Cole, age 71 of Charleston, passed away peacefully on Monday, February 3, 2020 at his rural Charleston home with loving family at his side. Visitation will be held from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 8, 2020 at Adams Funeral Chapel in Charleston. The funeral service, honoring and celebrating his life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 9, 2020 at the funeral chapel, with Reverend Tom Skinner officiating. Gary will rest in Thomas Lincoln (Shiloh) Cemetery along with five generations of his family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and left at the visitation/service or mailed to Adams Funeral Chapel, 2330 Shawnee Drive, Charleston, IL 61920.
Gary was born January 22, 1949 in Charleston, Illinois, the son of the late Neal and Nettie (Kutzuk) Cole. He graduated from Charleston High School in 1967 after which he attended the University of Illinois, obtaining a degree in Mechanical Engineering in the winter of 1972. Upon graduating from the U of I, Gary began working with his father, Neal, at Ne-Co Asphalt Company in Charleston, an enterprise his father had established in 1966. Gary was still at the helm of Ne-Co Asphalt at the time of his passing.
In 1972, Gary and Diane Bell were married. Together, over the years, they enjoyed skiing trips out west, setting out on buying excursions for Diane’s antique business and eventually, traveling to Oregon to visit their daughter Elizabeth and two grandchildren. Gary is survived by Diane, his loving and devoted wife of 47 years; his son, Brent Cole of Charleston and his daughter Elizabeth (Ron) Ezetta of Portland, Oregon; grandson, Zachary Cole Ezetta and granddaughter, Erin Grace Ezetta. Gary was preceded in death by his sister Toni Cole.
Bird photography was Gary’s passion. He and Diane escaped to Sanibel Island, Florida every winter for the past 32 years. Practically every day, that weather would allow, Gary would pack up his camera and go in search of that perfect photo. More times than he would ever admit, he would capture that perfection. On Sanibel Island, he was very involved with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving the island’s native flora. Gary loved leading plant identification walks for the Foundation’s “Weeds and Seeds” group. He could also be found out on the Foundation’s trails, performing maintenance and grooming. Always a lover of nature, Gary was proud of the conservation projects on his farm acreage, turning row crops into tallgrass prairie and pollinator fields. For a number of years, Diane and Gary were members of the Embarras Volunteer Stewards working on native areas around Charleston and surrounding towns. Gary was also a member of the Charleston Tree Commission and served on the Board of Directors for the Douglas-Hart Nature Center.
The funeral service celebrating the life of Gary Cole was held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 9, 2020 at Adams Funeral Chapel in Charleston with Pastor Tom Skinner officiating. Eulogies were given by Steve Bell, Elizabeth Ezetta, Paul Moffett and John Robinson. Gary's granddaughter, Erin Grace Ezetta sang "Doh-Re-Mi" and recorded selections of "Hallelujah" and "Amazing Grace" were played. Big Blue Mountain band played "May The Circle Be Unbroken" and "I'll Fly Away". Burial followed at Thomas Lincoln (Shiloh) Cemetery - rural Lerna, Illinois. Pallbearers were: Ron Anderson, Hank Bell, Steve Bell, Brent Cole, Paul Moffett and John Robinson. Honorary Pallbearers were: Terry Bacon, Patty Bollinger, Randy Cooley, Toni Dowd, Ed Neal, Nick Owens, John Reat, Frank Sikorski and (posthumously) Tony Sunderman.
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