Galen Cole, a World War II veteran and philanthropist from Bangor who spent years advocating for Maine veterans, died Thursday at age 94.

Cole, who served on the Bangor City Council in the 1950s, founded the Cole Land Transportation Museum, connected tens of thousands of schoolchildren and veterans, and created the Walking Sticks for Veterans program. The Galen Cole Family Foundation supports scholarships, recovery and literacy programs, adult education and youth camps in the Bangor area.

Galen Cole, center, appears at a ceremony for Maine veterans who visited the World War II Memorial and other sites in Washington, D.C. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

Local and state leaders remembered Cole on Friday for his generosity and service to fellow veterans.

Sen. Susan Collins called Cole a patriot and a well-respected business leader.

“There is no one in Maine who was a greater advocate for our World War II veterans than Galen Cole,” Collins said in a statement. “From the military displays at the Cole Transportation Museum to the beautiful maple walking sticks that he distributed to veterans, he honored those who wore the uniforms of our country at every opportunity. Galen was responsible for educating countless schoolchildren about the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families.”

Former Sen. Olympia Snowe and former Gov. John McKernan issued a statement in which they called Cole an “exceptional pillar of our state and nation.” They said Cole will be remembered for his integrity, dedication and generosity of spirit.


“Throughout his life, Galen was an exemplary citizen, epitomizing what it means to be a Mainer. He was an example to both of us growing up – from his distinctive military service to building one of New England’s largest transportation companies, as well as a fascinating museum illustrating our state’s transportation history,” Snowe and McKernan wrote.

Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague wrote on Twitter that the city is mourning the loss of Cole, who serviced on the council, multiple boards and committees, and supported Little League baseball.

“We are forever in his debt,” Sprague wrote.

Galen, who had battled prostate cancer since 1993, graduated from Bangor High School in 1944 before becoming a combat infantryman with the 5th Armored Division, according to his obituary. He received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He was later selected by the Military Order of the Purple Heart for the National Americanism Award.

Cole worked for 50 years at Cole’s Express, growing the company into a regional carrier, according to his obituary. He was elected to the Bangor City Council at age 29 in 1955 and served as mayor in 1958.

In 1990, he and his wife, Sue, founded the Galen Cole Family Land Transportation Museum. Since then, more than 50,000 Maine schoolchildren have interviewed veterans in the museum’s Ambassadors of Patriotism program, according to his obituary.

Through the walking stick program, Maine-made maple walking sticks have been given to more than 10,000 Maine veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and later conflicts.

Cole was married to Sue, his childhood sweetheart, for 73 years before her death in 2017. He is survived by his children, Ann, Dick, Gary, Janet and Len, as well as multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A public memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 25 at Anah Spiritual Center in Bangor. All recipients of walking sticks are invited to attend and proudly carry and use their walking sticks, according to Cole’s obituary.

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