A North Carolina woman recognized last year as America’s oldest living Marine has died.
Dorothy Schmidt Cole died last week after suffering a heart attack at her daughter’s home in Kannapolis. She was 107.
Cole set out from her home in Warren, Pennsylvania, to join the Navy following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, according to the Charlotte Observer. Her height of 4 feet, 11 inches prevented her from enlisting at the time.
Eager to serve, Cole put in 200 hours of flight time and tried to join the Marine Corps as a pilot. Rebuffed again, she refused to be denied. In 1942, she joined the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve that had just been established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
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Cole, then 29, was one of the reserve’s earliest volunteers.
Cole completed six weeks of training at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune with the Women’s Reserve First Battalion.
While she found herself assigned to duty “behind a typewriter instead of a plane,” she wore her uniform proudly.
“I loved the hats we were wearing,” Cole told the Marine Corps Times after her 107th birthday. “It was fun when I got the first complete Marine outfit. I loved it very much and felt right at home with it.”
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Cole met her future husband in Washington, D.C., during World War II. Wiley Cole was a Navy man who served aboard the USS Hornet, participating in both the Pacific Theater and Solomon Islands campaigns.
After the war, Dorothy Cole was discharged as a Marine sergeant.
The couple married and moved to San Francisco in 1953, where their only child was born. Both found work at Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley,
Cole never remarried after her husband died in 1955. She raised her daughter alone, moving to North Carolina in 1976.
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Cole was awarded lifetime membership in the Marine Corps League Cabarrus Detachment 1175 in September.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.