Note: As we reflect on this treasured Alaska historian, Rasmuson Foundation board member Lile R. Gibbons remembers how their families became close. Terrence Cole died Dec. 12 at age 67.
The friendship between Terrence Cole and the extended Rasmuson/Gibbons family began some 30 years ago when my father, Elmer Rasmuson, was writing his books on the history of banking in Alaska and Alaska pioneers. Dad needed help with the research and editing, preferably with someone who knew the characters and the issues. Who better than Terrence Cole, a tenured professor at the University of Alaska. Working with Elmer was not always easy, but Terrence knew when it was time to stop writing, to listen, to be supportive and return to the project another day. The books were written and published. A great joint venture between the two of them.
While my husband, John, and I had met Terrence several times over the years, he came into his own with our Greenwich friends when his wife, Gay Salisbury, spoke to my book club (at the annual meeting with husbands) about her book co-authored with her cousin, “The Cruelest Miles.” Terrence was the projection manager that night but our friends were totally enamored to have a real University of Alaska professor in their presence and hear his tales of living in Fairbanks during the cruelest months of winter. Apocryphal storyteller or not, he was enchanting and no one in this audience knew the difference. His eyes twinkled, his hands danced, and his delivery was delightful. And Gay’s talk on the dog sled journey from Fairbanks to Nome was great adventure for this Eastern group.
As Gay’s parents lived not far from us in North Stamford, we occasionally had dinner with the Salisbury clan whenever Terrence was back East. We went to Elizabeth’s christening at the little church across from the Salisbury’s house on Long Ridge Road. I often met up with both Terrence and Gay in Sun Valley when our skiing trips overlapped. Terrence thought as much of downhill skiing as does my husband, which is to say, not with great enthusiasm! But he was a supportive husband and father to Gay and Elizabeth who loved the sport.
I never took a course from Terrence but I know his classes were always full. His knowledge, his comprehension of Alaska history, his interests, were vast and stimulating as was his delivery and rhetoric.
Terrence, you inspired so many students over the years not only with facts and data but also with the stories and trivia of our great state. Your reputation endures. Thank you for the fun, the laughter and the encouragement you delivered as professor, teacher, friend. You will be missed. Love, Lile