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Cancer Claims the 'Master,' Marion Cole

Marion Cole

Marion Cole with Stearman
From the early 1960s, Marionís 450-hp Stearman, pictured at the EAA convention in Rockford.

Marion Cole with Pitts
Marion Cole and his Pitts Special S-1C.

Marion Cole with the Red Devils
Marion (center) flanked by fellow Red Devils Gene Soucy (left) and Bob Heuer in a 1969 photo.

July 11, 2011 – EAA and the International Aerobatics Club (IAC) are saddened to report the passing of Marion Franklin “Master” Cole, who lost a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer on Friday, July 8, in Louisiana, at the age of 86. Marion, EAA Lifetime 48 and a founding (No. 9) IAC member, was a part of the famous Cole Brothers Flying Circus for 17 years, then flew the lead Pitts with Bob Heuer and Gene Soucy in the original Red Devils formation team. He is a past U.S. National Aerobatic champion and competed as a member of the U. S. Aerobatic Team at Magdeburg, East Germany, in 1968. As an aerobatics instructor, Marion provided training for many of the great names in competitive and air show aerobatics.

Funeral services celebrating his life are scheduled for Tuesday, July 12, at 11 a.m. at Hill Crest Memorial Funeral Home, Haughton, Louisiana. Visitation will be held at Hill Crest Monday from 5-8 p.m.

“Marion was a longtime supporter of EAA and one of the most outstanding aerobatic pilots I ever met,” said EAA Founder Paul Poberezny. “Especially in the 450-hp Stearman - in my opinion, Marion was top of the line in the precision handling of that aircraft. He served as a role model for the entire aerobatic community, just a wonderful man.

“Time flies too rapidly for us human beings.”

Marion Cole was born on December 9, 1924, in Toulan Township, Illinois. He became a “hangar brat” at an early age, cleaning airplanes and hangars - anything to earn a ride with a local pilot. He soloed at age 16 and never looked back.

Marion joined the service as soon as he was of age and became a flight instructor in the Navy. Following World War II, he flew with his brothers in the Cole Brothers Air Shows, then formed Marion Cole Air Shows, with which he performed until the early 1990s. Marion was also an aerobatic instructor, flight instructor, FAA examiner, a corporate pilot for 32 years, and a national and world aerobatic competitor. In all he logged more than 31,000 flight hours.

Marion was a founding member of the International Aerobatic Club, taught aerobatics at the basic and advanced levels, and tutored many young aerobatic pilots for more than 50 years. He flew air shows throughout the continental United States from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. He retired from the air show circuit but continued to council, tutor, and announce for young aerobatic hopefuls and attended several air shows, including AirVenture, each year.

Marion’s awards and accomplishments during his aviation career were numerous and included 1952 National Aerobatic Champion; 1965 Madame Claire Chennault Aerobatic Award; Mayor Honors Awards in 1965, 1966, 1967, for achievements in aviation; IAC Hall of Fame induction in 1988; and ICAS Hall of Fame induction in 2006.

One of the special thrills for Marion was teaching his family the craft he loved. He taught his wife, Charlene, to fly soon after they married, and three sons, three grandsons, and one daughter-in-law also are pilots.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Charlene; sons, Bill and wife Norma, Larry and wife Terri, Howard and wife Donna, Don and wife Sharilyn; grandsons, Kevin and wife Tiffany, Aaron and wife Maegan, Ray, and Justin; great-grandchildren, Kennedie and Collin.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Marion Cole Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Ouachita Independent Bank, 601 Fern Ave., Shreveport, LA 71105, or call (318) 459-3000.

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