Oldest-living Marine dies at 107
Dorothy Schmidt Cole, of North Carolina, a Warren native, died Thursday, Jan. 7, at the age of 107.
She entered the Marine Corps during World War II, and, on her 107th birthday, Cole was recognized by the U.S. Marine Corps as the oldest living Marine – bringing her some nationwide fame.
She was born on Sept. 19, 1913, in Warren.
She grew up in Warren County and graduated from Warren High School in 1932, carrying the nicknames “Smitty” and “Dort.”
She had gone to the Kalbfus Club with her father and brother and knew her way around guns.
She played basketball, hockey, and track at Warren High, according to her high school yearbook.
She had worked at the YWCA as a secretary and knew that a desk job was not her goal.
She was not interested in knitting.
And, she harbored a secret dream – to be a pilot.
“After taking a local 25 cent plane ride, (Cole) had a secret desire to fly, a dream frowned upon for women at the time,” according to the historical society.
That ride was in an open biplane.
“After the attack on Pearl Harbor, she enlisted,” according to information from the Warren County Historical Society. “She took a bus to Pittsburgh to enlist in the U.S. Navy.”
“Everyone was out doing something,” Cole said in a 2020 interview with the U.S. Marine Corps. “Women helping the Red Cross or even in churches they were knitting things.”
“I decided that I wanted to do something” to help the war effort, she said in the Marine Corps interview.
She earned her private pilot’s license “to prove her worth to her superiors in hopes of being sent overseas as a pilot,” according to the historical society.
The Navy turned her down. She was too short to pass their physical.
Later, when she was 29, the Marine Corps signed her up, but not as a pilot.
“Dorothy was a part of female integration in what was considered male-dominated career fields within the Marine Corps during WWII which allowed the Marine Corps to free up personnel to fight the war in the Pacific,” according to the video.
“She was stationed in Virginia where she proudly served through the remainder of the war,” according to the historical society.
The U.S. Naval Institute remembered Cole in a Wednesday Tweet.
“Dorothy ‘Dot’ Cole, who was the oldest living Marine, passed away on Thursday at the age of 107. She joined the USMC shortly after Pearl Habor with hopes of becoming a pilot but like most women in the era, was assigned to clerical work so that men could be freed for combat. #RIP.”