William Hoffman Cole

William Hoffman Cole

December 30, 1930 – December 30, 2022

William Hoffman Cole “Bill” was born in Houston, Texas, on December 30, 1930, to William Judson Cole and Corinne Rose Cole and died on December 30, 2022, at the age of 92. Bill is a graduate of Pasadena, Texas, High School, Southwest Texas State University, with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He received a second master’s degree and worked toward a doctorate degree in English literature from the University of Iowa. He served two years in the armed forces. He received a teaching position in English Literature at Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam, New York, after leaving the Army. It was in northern New York where he met his future wife, Mary Jane Clift, who was also a native Texan. They were married on August 25, 1962, in Denison, Texas. They made their first home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where Bill taught English Literature at Wisconsin State College.

Over his 92 years, Bill taught English and American Literature at several colleges. He also owned and operated two movie theaters in Shenandoah, Iowa. Bill was an avid bicycle rider most of his life, a lover of classical music, old movies, and antiquities. He enjoyed telling jokes that played with the English language; had an uncanny ability to remember historical data/dates; he was a collector of records and antique talking machines beginning with Thomas Edison up to the present day.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, W.J. and Corinne Cole, and one brother, Donald Cole. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Jane Cole; 3 children: Cassandra Putnam and husband, Bob; Clifton Cole and wife, Colleen; Andrea Nebel and Stephen Spurlock; 7 grandchildren: Kirsten Putnam Husmann, Jack Putnam, Dustin Nebel, Bridger Nebel, Cole Nebel, Hunter Cole, and Madison Cole; 4 great-grandchildren: Bentley, Jase, Levi, and Ellie; a niece, Janna Cole Bennett and a nephew, Judson Cole; several cousins and many friends.

A memorial service will celebrate Bill’s life on January 20, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 925 S. 84th Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68114.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, memorials be given to the Music Fund of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.



  • Mary Jane (Davison)Laughlin Posted January 14, 2023 6:34 pm

    Mrs. Cole and children-Please accept my sympathies on Mr. Cole’s death. I don’t think I appreciated all of his wit and humor when I was a student at Tarkio. I was able to check papers for him for one semester. That helped to hone my proofreading skills for use as a teacher and newspaper proofreader. I always enjoyed babysitting your children. God bless all of you.

  • Wilbur Ellis Posted January 15, 2023 11:01 am

    My deepest sympathies to you all. Bill was a wonderful man and will be missed greatly. I remember my time spent with Bill on the Vestry of St. John’s Episcopal Church. One never quite knew what would come out of his mouth at those meetings; he had such a dry wit. May you all find peace in your time of grief.

  • Lisa Falk-Thompson Posted January 16, 2023 2:40 pm

    My sympathies to Mary Jane and the rest of Bill’s family. I knew you all from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Shenandoah. I often think back on a bicycle trip I made with Bill to Sidney to deliver playbills for the Page Theater, as I was training for my first RAGBRAI in 1975. Needless to say, we left later than we should have, and I had to keep reminding him my mother was expecting me home before dark. I made it back in time, but I’m not sure he did. May Bill rest in peace.

  • Gayle and John Teget Posted January 18, 2023 1:11 pm

    Sending our deep sympathy to the Cole family. We so enjoyed the times we had with Bill, and know that he touched many lives with his wit and compassion,

  • Joe Farrell Posted January 19, 2023 10:36 am

    Dear Mary Jane, Cassandra, Clifton, and Andrea. We extend our sincerest heartfelt sympathies for you and your family for Bill’s passing. We are so grateful for the opportunity to have known Bill and the Cole family while we all worked at the Page Theatre and Iowa Drive-In for many years. Our entire family shared many unique experiences and learned so much from Bill. He was so inspirational and showed his passion everyday for life and all it can be for following your dreams. His legacy lives through our lives everyday and we are blessed to have shared so much together. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and may you find comfort in the days ahead.
    Joe, Theresa (Stevens), Brian, Greg, Steve, RIP Katrina (Mattice) and Robert Farrell

  • Dr. Martin Jacobsen Posted February 10, 2023 3:20 pm

    I’m very sorry for your loss. Mr. Cole was my mentor at Peru State College. He taught me about Plato, and it changed my life. I took five classes from him, but learned even more over coffee-especially about classical music. He didn’t just make a difference in my life; he make THE difference.

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