Originally published in the April/May/June 2022 Issue of America’s Sports Car Magazine. Author: Anne Cole Pierce
In this installment, we’d like to focus on Dollie Anne Cole. You can learn more about her here, but we asked her daughter, Anne Cole Pierce, to tell us about her mom.
“A Mom forgives us all our faults, not to mention one or two we don’t even have.”
Photographs courtesy of Dominic J. Palazzolo, Will Van Overbeek, Louis Schaumacher, Tony Spina, Edward Noble, Walter Daran, General Motors Photographic, J. M. Dentler, Bob Scott
I was asked to write about what it was like for my brothers, Jeff, Joe, and Nick, and I, to have Dollie Ann Cole, a Corvette Hall of Fame Member, as our Mother. I think I can safely say for all of us, it was simply unbelievably great.
“To describe my Mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.”
Mom was a beautiful, smart, generous, talented, hard working, determined, stubborn, opinionated Texan who was a great role model. She taught us that because we had been blessed with an amazing life and opportunities, courtesy of both our Mom, and especially Dad, Edward N. Cole, that with that, came great responsibility to give back.
She taught us that there was no job we were too good for (usually followed by “and don’t you ever forget it”); that hard work was the key to succeeding in life; that we needed to give of our time, talent and treasure to help those most vulnerable, such as children and animals; and that even though she would be supportive, she wouldn’t “support” us as adults–we needed to earn it on our own.
These were some of Mom’s most important lessons for our lives.
“My Mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”
Mom was strict. She wasn’t a “helicopter” parent, although we often thought she had eyes in the back of her head and a sense of hearing the CIA would envy.
You did your own homework in our household. She’d tell us; “I’ve already passed that class—it’s your turn!”
She also didn’t have much patience for complaining. She reminded us that we were unbelievably lucky, and we were. Not only were we healthy, but we were able to live in a beautiful home with parents who loved us; we got to drive fast and fabulous cars, including the occasional Corvette which we competed for; we were able to travel and meet interesting people (that most only read about in the paper); and even got to go to events like the Indianapolis 500. What was there to complain about?
“Be who you are and say what you feel because the ones who mind don’t matter, and the ones who matter don’t mind.”
We all had chores and were expected to help often (“and with a good attitude”) around the house and with her varied charity projects. I was seen in most every hotel in Detroit in curlers because when Mom chaired a charity event, we usually did the flower arrangements and decorations ourselves. Because she wanted to have as much of the money raised actually go to the charity, we also arrived in trucks, not limos. Mom kept up the “doing it ourselves” tradition by having all of us decorate for every party she gave. She also did so for every wedding, at the church and at the reception, for members of our family and close friends. We all learned to schlep, load and unload, and have fun doing it.
“Lots of people talk to animals…Not very many listens, though…That’s the problem.”
Mom instilled a love of animals in all of us, leading brother Joe to help found the Michigan Animal Adoption Network, saving animals at risk in the Detroit area. Joe, and sister-in-law Nancy, have gone many times in the middle of the night to some rough areas of town, to try and save a freezing cat or bring a dog hurt on the road to a vet. This was so like Mom.
Mom had a special route in her county in Texas that she would drive frequently. Along the way, whenever she spotted dogs that were chained up and looked thin or hungry, she would toss a bag of dog food over the fence after taking her knife and cutting across the sack so the bag could not be returned for money. She did this well into her 80’s.
We lost count of the number of older horses that “appeared” in one of the Ranch pastures. Word was in town that if someone “dropped off” an aging horse in the middle of the night on Mom’s Ranch, that horse would have a home forever.
On one occasion, Mom even confronted a lady at her hair salon who said that she was selling her horse because it had gotten too old to ride. After a few choice words about how she was treating an animal who had loved HER for years, Mom offered to buy the horse. Mom could cut someone in two with them not knowing it until they tried to walk away. Stunned, the woman watched Mom pull out a wad of cash and seal the deal. She picked the horse up that day and brought it home to live, without fear, for the rest of its life, in “horsey opulence” on the Briarpatch. Mom called the herd of discarded mares her “Old Ladies” and spoiled them continually.
Mom once even fed a family of raccoons for an entire Winter that had broken into the attic of our home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, they had been trapped inside by ice until the thaw, and she didn’t want them to starve or get hurt.
Speaking of animals inside the house, I will never forget helping her dye the carpet in the living room the night before parties, to hide the spots where one of her five dogs had made “mistakes” inside. This resulted in at least one man (who sat on the carpet) going home with a green bottom on his white pair of pants.
We learned that animals were to be loved and protected, period.
“A mom reads you like a book, and wherever she goes, people read you like a glowing book review.”
Brother Nick helped Mom build the Pegasus School for Boys, literally, clocking in hundreds of hours of bulldozer time, erecting buildings that comprised the various school facilities, building roads and other structures needed to house, feed and teach 90 boys. This effort was financed, in large part, by Mom first donating 100 plus acres for the school, and then by Mom and many of her friends digging deep in their pockets.
Nick also drove tractor trailers bought by Mom for that purpose, full of items she donated to hurricane and fire disaster areas, on multiple occasions.
He also helped Mom move the Fentress Skating Rink and Dance Hall, a 148 foot by 40-foot historic building originally built in 1917. It was moved down Highway 20 to add it to a historical village Mom was building in Lockhart, Texas. She wanted families to have a place to go to skate, picnic and spend good family time together. It had taken a letter to the President of the United States from her and an act of Congress to get the building moved. She had contacted every landowner on the route and gotten permission to move mail boxes and replace them, cut fence, and go through fields, all at her own expense.
As an aside, it happened that one of the police officers who formed part of the moving escort was an officer who had tracked Nick the night before going 165 mph in a purple Corvette. Nick had replaced the engine in it and apparently it ran so well that the officer wasn’t able to give him the ticket he so richly deserved.
After the move was over and all the dignitaries had left (including Congressmen, Senators, and the Governor) the officer approached Mom. By this point she had already learned of the chase the night before. He said, “Miss Cole, tell your son to slow that Corvette down or we are gonna catch him and put him in jail.” Mom smiled and said, “If he doesn’t slow down, you should catch him…if you can.” Two weeks later Mom introduced Nick to a race team and helped him start his car racing career, a typical, creative Mom solution.
Brother Jeff, an Air Force Pararescue veteran, experienced more excitement helping Mom with her charity work than the rest of us. He would skydive into the Ranch with his friends to events for The National Corvette Museum and Project Hope, among many others. He could land on a dinner plate.
Mom’s parties were always over the top and almost always had a charitable purpose. She once surprised Dad with a Rodeo, renting the Michigan State Fair Coliseum, and inviting hundreds of friends and business folks to try their hand at riding, roping, and pulling ribbons off of calves’ tails in competition. Only Mom!
“Mom is a verb, not a noun.”
Mom was lots of fun and had a great sense of humor. She taught us that any fool could pay retail, and she would go anywhere to find a bargain, nationally and internationally. She loved Orchard and Delancey Streets in New York, and Korea Town in L.A where wholesale was the name of the game. She could walk anyone into the ground when on the hunt for a deal. She had a “black belt’ in shopping which she thought had to be earned annually. She loved to go to auctions, estate sales and resale shops, and all of us had “Shopping Duty”, following in her wake, carrying bags. Nick’s duty was a tad different as he had to bring a crew to load and unload the trucks and trailers that resulted from this “hobby” of hers.
Mom told us that “I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink. This is my one vice so live with it. It’s only inventory.” Much of that “inventory” however, was quietly donated to her many charities, and all of us miss the packages that used to arrive at our offices at work, her way of telling us that she had been thinking of us.
“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”
Mom was fearless and said what she thought and did what she promised. She was very comfortable in her own skin and taught us that secret in life. Although she could be flying private to some fabulous party, dressed to the nines with over-the-top jewelry one night, she was just as at home in her trademark black jeans and boots working at the Ranch.
She loved caring for her 30 plus horses, 11 dogs, 3 giant pigs, a sheep named “Topper”(who’d kill you if you turned your back on him) and a couple of goats, the babies of which hung out in the Ranch office wearing diapers. She could ride, rope, drive a race car, fly a plane, sew, design clothes, do flower arrangements, upholster, drive a truck, and was on the Boards of a number of entities including her beloved National Corvette Museum. Try following that!
“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”
—Franklin P. Jones—
Since Mom left us in 2014, we have heard many stories about her that have made us laugh and cry, and we believe every one of them. I’ll close with my favorite which involved an auction, naturally.
One day, Mom and brother Nick went to an auction near Lockhart (a regular weekend activity), going to one offering state hospital items. Mom was ecstatic as much of it was going cheaply. She eventually spotted cardboard boxes in a size she wanted, neatly stacked on pallets. As she only wanted the boxes, the contents weren’t of interest to her so she didn’t even bother to look inside them. She ended up buying 16 pallets of boxes – containing- drum roll please – 50,000 colostomy bags.
Nick had brought the 32-foot gooseneck, so he loaded up the pallets and started back to the Ranch with Mom following in her Avalanche. At some point, the top boxes began to blow open, dispersing their contents far and wide as Nick was driving down I-35, spreading colostomy bags everywhere, including all over the grill and bed of Mom’s truck. When Nick called to ask what to do, Mom’s response was “Keep on going!”
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.
God truly blessed my brothers and I by giving us Dollie Cole as our Mom. She was a priceless gift that keeps on giving. She was the person who met a man at a party, came home, woke me up and told me, “I have met the man of your dreams – he is divorced and has custody of three kids.” I told her, “Not my dreams!” As usual though, Mom was right and 42 years and a houseful of kids later, I am forever grateful that Mom introduced me to my Husband Karlton.
There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t miss her. She touched so many lives in such positive ways, especially ours. There isn’t a day that we don’t try to live the lessons she taught us, but it sure was a lot more fun when she was here, making things happen and making us laugh – I miss that most of all.