USAF retired colonel transforms into Cleopatra … for a good cause


Cole traded his dignity for dollars to help charity Sept. 16.

Senior life photo

Retired U.S. Air Force Col.Herman Cole checked his dignity at the door last month and transformed into Cleopatra to help the Women’s Center. Cole was one of the dozen “dudes” in “Dude Looks Like a Lady,” a major fundraiser that provides significant funding for programs to help victims of domestic violence. 

It wasn’t the first time Cole had engaged with his inner Cleopatra, for earlier in the summer, he helped raise more than $65,000 during a preview of the “Dude” event, which raised $200,000 on Sept. 16. 

Giving of his time, talent and treasure is an integral part of life for this native of Charleston, S.C. In an old newspaper clipping, Cole is seen collecting money for the March of Dimes as a teenager.

“My school collected the most,” he said, still proud of the achievement.

“I’ve always been involved in helping charities.”

While on duty in Vietnam, Cole would get a day off a week, a day which he would usually spend helping to build a school at a Vietnamese orphanage.

“I’ve never stopped helping,” he said. 

The current chairman of the board at Parrish Medical Center, the Titusville resident has served on the hospital board for 16 years. He is also vice chair and past chairman of the Titusville YMCA, where he works out four or five times a week, and is on the board of the Parrish Medical Foundation. Additionally, he is past president and a member of the Titusville Rotary and a past member of the Titusville Planning and Zoning Board.

Growing up in the segregated South, Cole chose the military as a career after his schoolteacher aunt took him to an Air Force base on a field trip.

“I saw the black officers living together with the white officers and I thought if they could live together like that, that is where I want to be,” he said.

Retired Col. Herman ColeHe enrolled at Tuskegee University, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture while in the ROTC program. 

“I love architecture,” Cole said.

“My Air Force career was centered around managing construction projects and large bases.” 

Cole’s military assignments took him around the world from Vietnam to England and from Japan to Saudi Arabia, earning him military decorations that include the USAF Legion of Merit, six USAF Meritorious Service Medals, the USAF Commendation Medal and numerous other service medals.

During his last days at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Cole was part of a father-son team, since his oldest son, Herman Cole III, was also stationed there at the time. The junior Cole, who retired as a lieutenant colonel, is now a pilot for United Airlines. His younger brother, Chris, is co-owner with his parents of two Brightway Insurance Agencies in Palm Beach County. 

After retiring from the Air Force in 1994, Cole became director of facilities management and a visiting professor in engineering at the University of Dayton in Ohio. When a headhunter offered him a position at Kennedy Space Center, Cole jumped at the chance to leave freezing Dayton for toasty Titusville. 

A firm believer in fitness, Cole plays golf four — or more — times a week at his favorite course, La Cita. His wife of 50 years, Joyce, joins him in golf, but tennis is her favorite sport. An avid runner, he clocks in 30 miles a week.

“I’ve been running all my life,” he said.

“I added it all up and I’ve run 23,000 miles in 44 years.”