For richer, for poorer, in sickness and health

Till death did they part


Just be­fore Valen­tine’s day this yearThe Com­pass­set up an in­ter­view with Sal­va­tion Army Ma­jor’s Ross and Beu­lah Cole, who were re­sid­ing at the Colling­wood Downs Se­niors Cit­i­zens Home in Clarke’s Beach.

While, at that time, Mrs. Cole was bedrid­den and un­able to speak with The Com­pass, her hus­band was ea­ger to talk about the 73 years he spent mar­ried to the “girl of his dreams.”

Sadly on Feb.15, the same day of the sched­uled in­ter­view, Beu­lah Cole, age 99, passed away.While her death has left her hus­band alone for the first time in 73 years, he re­cently sat down with The Com­passto share some of their life ex­pe­ri­ences to­gether as man and wife.

The first time Ross Cole laid eyes on Beu­lah Cooper he says he fell in love with her.

But it would be seven years be­fore he got up the nerve to speak to her.

The first con­nec­tion took place around 1926 when Ma­jor Cole was teach­ing school in Dildo.

“One day I hap­pened to be in the Sal­va­tion Army Ci­tadel in Blake­town when I no­ticed a Bi­ble on one of the seats. I picked it up, opened it and saw some hand­writ­ten notes. I was so im­pressed by the neat­ness of the writ­ing. I looked at the fly­leaf and read the name of the owner — Beu­lah Cooper. This was the woman of whom I had been hear­ing, an un­usu­ally beau­ti­ful young woman, who taught at the Sal­va­tion Army School in Blake­town. Beu­lah, such a pretty name, I had never heard that name be­fore...”

A few weeks later Ma­jor Cole saw the young teacher from a dis­tance.

“Some­one pointed her out to me. I had no op­por­tu­nity to speak to her, in fact, if I did, I prob­a­bly would never have spo­ken be­cause I was so bash­ful and shy,” he says.“But my heart was smit­ten.

“I never un­der­stood the mean- ing of fall­ing in love,” he says while paus­ing to re­gain con­trol of his voice. “If some­one asked me to ex­plain it I could only say that it’s a rare and pe­cu­liar feel­ing which one could not scratch. What­ever it was, I must have caught the germ, for the sight of that lit­tle girl at Blake­town kept haunt­ing and trou­bling me.”

Shy­ness and the thought that some young man had his eye on her, kept the Ma­jor from ap­proach­ing Beu­lah.

“I thought maybe she was spo­ken for by some other lucky guy. That some man long be­fore had made a match with her,” he says. “I wished I had the nerve to talk to her about it, but I was too shy. Also at that time I didn’t want to be a Sal­va­tion Army Of­fi­cer and I hated teach­ing school, there­fore it all seemed hope­less. I com­posed a cou­ple of verses of po­etry to the tune of the Old Rugged Cross, which I wanted to send to her, but I dared not.”

In 1928 Ma­jor Cole en­rolled in a Mas­ter Me­chanic course at the Do­min­ion Trade School in Toronto. He was 17 years old.

“I needed to get away and try to for­get all about Beluah,” he said. “I also needed to break away from home and make a new life for my­self.”

Called to min­is­ter

Ma­jor Cole was born to Nimshi and Miriam (nee Noel) Cole on June 1, 1911 on Ex­ploits Is­land, just off the East Coast of New­found­land and Labrador.

“My par­ents were Sal­va­tion Army Of­fi­cers so they were trans­ferred all over the is­land,” he ex­plains. “My fa­ther was also a first class car­pen­ter as well as a skilled watch maker and my mother a nurse.”

The day Ma­jor Cole left for Toronto his fa­ther walked him to the deck of the SS Sil­via.

“Dad was cry­ing just as much as I was and when we fi­nally had to sep­a­rate he shook my hand, with his other on my shoul­der. Then he

walked ashore. Not a word did we ex­change. By the time I reached Toronto a let­ter was wait­ing for me with money for me to come back home again, but I couldn’t take my fa­ther’s money like that. I needed to earn my own way. I did well in my me­chan­ics course how­ever I was al­ways looking for a job and didn’t care what it was as long as I was earn­ing.”

Ma­jor Cole’s first job in Toronto was beat­ing car­pets by hand us­ing a wire beater. He also scrubbed base­ment floors, waxed and pol­ished hard­wood.

“Many tears fell as I scrubbed and waxed,” he said. “My only em­ploy­ment prior to this had been teach­ing school, now here I was in this far away coun­try lonely and only 17 years old scrub­bing floors.”

The Ma­jor com­pleted his me­chanic course and worked for a while at the trade as well as a num­ber of other jobs. He planned to even­tu­ally open his own garage. But he says the man above had other plans for his life.

“There is no doubt about it, I heard the voice of God for the call to of­fi­cer­ship,” he said. “I heard it as clear as if some­one was speak­ing right to me. I knew I would have to work for a time in or­der to save up enough money to at­tend train­ing col­lege, but I knew God was lead­ing me in the right di­rec­tion for my life and he would pro­vide.”

Girl of his dreams

Ma­jor Cole re­turned to New­found­land and in Oc­to­ber 1930 en­tered the Sal­va­tion Army Col­lege for Of­fi­cer Train­ing in St. John’s.

“Bill Canning, Wil­lie Pratts and my­self marched in and sat at a long ta­ble pre­par­ing for the ar­rival of the prin­ci­pal,” he said ex­cit­edly. “We were ex­pect­ing the girl cadets to pa­rade in.

But one girl came in ahead of the oth­ers and I nearly fainted! This was the same girl I had met in Blake­town four years ago, the girl I loved, the same Beu­lah Cooper.”

While Ma­jor Cole wanted des­per­ately to speak with Beu­lah, con­tact be­tween men and women, at the train­ing col­lege, was for­bid­den.

“At that time males and fe­males were not per­mit­ted to speak to each other un­der any cir­cum­stances, not even on the street. If you broke that rule you could be im­me­di­ately dis­missed,” he re­calls.“So I pulled my­self to­gether and tried to re­main as calm as pos­si­ble, but there was an aw­ful burn­ing in­side which I could not ex­press.”

He con­soled him­self everyday by gaz­ing at Beu­lah from afar.

“I knew where the girl of my dreams was, and even if I couldn’t speak to her, no one else could speak to her ei­ther, so that made me feel bet­ter,” he says with a smile.

“Every­one who knew her said she was the pret­ti­est girl in the Sal­va­tion Army. She had a pretty, round face with rosy cheeks and looked even more beau­ti­ful when she blushed. She was an ex­cel­lent singer and a good preacher and teacher.”

The young man went the en­tire year without speak­ing to Beu­lah. In 1931 he was posted as a school­teacher and of­fi­cer in charge of Famish Cove Corps,( since re­named Fair Haven), in Pla­cen­tia Bay. Over the next three years he was trans­ferred all over the prov­ince be­fore end­ing up in Jack­son’s Cove in the spring of 1934. At that time Beu­lah was sta­tioned in Lit­tle Bay Is­lands nearby.

His du­ties as an of­fi­cer in Jack­son’s Cove in­cluded con­struct­ing a new Sal­va­tion Army quar­ters. He says he longed to share the new home with the girl of his dreams, the girl to whom he had never spo­ken, but he wouldn’t dare leave the corps to go visit her.

“Af­ter all I was in charge and much was ex­pected of me,” he re­flects qui­etly.

Fi­nally meet

One Satur­day morn­ing when Ma­jor Cole and a friend, Dukie Knight, were out in boat bird hunt­ing, he learned that Beu­lah, now also a Sal­va­tion Army Cap­tain, was com­ing to Jack­son’s Cove the fol­low­ing Sun­day. In fact she was go­ing to stay at Dukie’s house and the salt­wa­ter birds they were shoot­ing were for her Sun­day din­ner.

His heart started racing wildly.

“This was the very girl I had been dream­ing about for all th­ese years and wish­ing to be ac­quainted with — and at last I might fi­nally have the chance.”

How­ever when Dukie ex­tended a din­ner in­vi­ta­tion, the Ma­jor turned him down.

“I didn’t want to be seen with her be­cause I was afraid some­one might think I was tak­ing her out. That just wasn’t proper in those days, es­pe­cially among Sal­va­tion Army Of­fi­cers.”

On Sun­day morn­ing Beu­lah sat next to Ross on the church plat­form and sang a solo. Af­ter church they went to visit some of the sick.

“I felt like a king walk­ing along side of her,” he says.

On the way home they dropped by the old quar­ters, where Beu­lah had lived years be­fore. Know­ing she was com­ing the Ma­jor en­sured the place was spic and span.

“The old Com­fort stove was shin­ing and I had pho­tos laid out on the liv­ing room ta­ble. Ev­ery­thing was in ap­ple pie or­der. I so wanted to make a good im­pres­sion,” he re­calls.

Beu­lah’s eyes flick­ered around ev­ery crook and cranny of the house be­fore rest­ing on the front door of the stove.

“She was cu­ri­ous as to why the name of the stove — Com­fort — was turned up­side down,” chuck- les the Ma­jor at the rec­ol­lec­tion.

“I told her I placed it in that po­si­tion be­cause a bach­e­lor’s life is op­po­site to com­fort,” he says grin­ning widely. “Any­way she caught the idea, we started talk­ing and the ques­tions came fast and I found out she didn’t have a boyfriend.”

Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion Ma­jor Ross Cole made an at­tempt to let Beu­lah Cooper know how he felt about her.

“I told her I had loved a girl for seven years, had been true to her, not taken out any other girl, but kept loving just her in my heart. She asked me if the girl knew how I felt and I told her no. I said I could never let her know un­til I knew where I stood with her. I also didn’t want to hurt her be­cause she was too good of a girl to hurt. I asked her what she would do if she were in my place? She said she would write to her and ex­plain just how much she loved her, and that if she was a lady, she would keep it a se­cret.”

While the Ma­jor was burst­ing to pro­claim his love for Beu­lah then and there, he was afraid of be­ing too for­ward.

“I was afraid it would up­set the en­tire ap­ple­cart so I didn’t say any­thing. I just told her I might do that, write this girl a let­ter. I had noth­ing to lose.”

That night the two young Cap­tains led the church ser­vice to­gether.

“What a thrill for me to be do­ing the ser­vice with the girl I loved, sit­ting by her side, want­ing to hold her hand, yet dar­ing not to make the ap­proach.

Af­ter the ser­vice Beu­lah and a cou­ple of older men from Lit­tle Bay Is­land left to walk back to Harry’s Har­bour about four or five miles away. Beu­lah asked Ross to ac­com­pany her. He turned her down.

“I did not want her to be talked about or for peo­ple to say that the Jack­son’s Cove Of­fi­cer had walked through the coun­try with Cap­tain Cooper,” he says qui­etly. “So I stayed home alone nurs­ing a bro­ken heart over the fact that I lost out on the op­por­tu­nity to have a nice long chat with her. We both re­turned to our du­ties on Mon­day morn­ing. I don’t know what she was think­ing but I was feel­ing so mis­er­able. I should have told her she was the girl I loved. The op­por­tu­nity had passed and now I felt it was gone for­ever.”

To­gether at last

In the sum­mer of 1934 Ma­jor Cole was trans­ferred to the Sal­va­tion Army Corps in Lead­ing Tick­les. A few weeks later he con­tracted blood poi­son­ing, from a piece of steel ac­ci­den­tally em­bed­ded in his arm. While in hospi­tal and se­ri­ously ill he fi­nally wrote Beu­lah pro­fess­ing his love.

“Af­ter I was dis­charged, I re­turned to my corps, but no let­ter from her came,” he said. “I learned she had been trans­ferred to an­other corps too, but I didn’t know where.Any­way I went about my du­ties, vis­it­ing, preach­ing, study­ing and hop­ing I would be well enough to go seal hunt­ing when the sea­son came.”

One fall day a let­ter from Beu­lah ar­rived.

“I was thrilled be­yond mea­sure,” Ma­jor Cole re­calls, his eyes lighting up at the mem­ory. “We be­gan to cor­re­spond reg­u­larly. Of course in those days we had to ask per­mis­sion to write each other from the Sal­va­tion Army head­quar­ters. Ev­ery­thing like that let­ters, en­gage­ments and mar­riages, had to be ap­proved first.

“There was a lot of work to be done in the corps ev­ery day, teach­ing, preach­ing, vis­it­ing and a lot of man­ual work too, how­ever ev­ery night we set aside some time to sit and write a long let­ter to each other. I fi­nally had my sweet­heart”

The two de­cided it was time to meet and have a face-to-face talk about their fu­ture to­gether.

“I was long­ing for that all im­por­tant mo­ment when we could fi­nally meet as prospec­tive lovers. If we could de­cide on a fu­ture of friend­ship maybe such could de­velop into a life-long union. There­fore this meet­ing would de­cide our des­tiny.”

Later that sum­mer the Ma­jor went to Deer Lake to visit his par­ents. Beu­lah ar­rived a few days later.

“I met her at the train sta­tion and we walked to the quar­ters to­gether, not even hold­ing hands be­cause I was too shy, re­served and slow,” he says with a chuckle.“We walked along like strangers.”

The cou­ple spent a week to­gether talk­ing about their plans for the fu­ture.Then Beu­lah was trans­ferred to Catalina and Ross was posted back to Jack­son’s Cove, where he had been years be­fore. It would be an­other year be­fore they saw each other again.

The two wrote each other ev­ery night, were of­fi­cially en­gaged and be­gan plan­ning a wed­ding.

Ma­jor Cole’s fa­ther mar­ried the cou­ple on Nov. 26 1936. They be­gan their life as hus­band and wife at the Sal­va­tion Army Corps in Clarke’s Beach, Con­cep­tion Bay where Ma­jor Cole’s par­ents had been sta­tioned years be­fore.

“I was al­ways awestruck by the scenic town of Clarke’s Beach,” he says. “It had and has a beau­ti­ful set­ting, it’s al­most like the gar­den of Eden, sit­u­ated not be­tween the two great and fa­mous rivers of the east — the Tigris and Euphrates, but be­tween two great Sal­mon rivers —North River and South River and fac­ing the beau­ti­ful blue wa­ters of Port de Grave with Bell is­land in the dis­tance.

The cou­ple raised four chil­dren Dona, Orville, Gold­wyn and Oren and moved all over the prov­ince un­til 1954 when they were ob­li­gated to re­tire be­cause of Ross’s poor health. The Ma­jor went on to be­come a suc­cess­ful in­sur­ance sales­man, pro­vin­cial di­rec­tor of the Bi­ble Read­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and later divi­sional man­ager for East­ern Canada. He also won top hon­ours in the Bi­ble Cru­sade, which led to him and Beu­lah tak­ing a trip to the Holy Lands.

United in heart

In 1959 they moved back to South River and started at­tend­ing the Clarke’s Beach Sal­va­tion Army Corps once again where Beu­lah served as corps trea­surer for many years.The cou­ple also founded the Golden Agers Club.

“Over the years we had many ups and downs, a lot of sickness and many times as of­fi­cers we didn’t even have a thing to put on the ta­ble to eat. We didn’t know where the next meal was com­ing from,” the Ma­jor re­counts, his voice break­ing. But we had each other and we had God above watch­ing over us and some­how he al­ways pro­vided.Times were of­ten very tough and un­cer­tain, but my girl was al­ways there for me. She was my great­est source of com­fort and sup­port.”

In 2006, Ross and Beu­lah moved into the Colling­wood Downs Se­nior Cit­i­zens Home, in Clarke’s Beach.

“She is gone home now, just a bit be­fore me,” says Ma­jor Cole, with quiet ac­cep­tance. “I al­ways told her I wanted her to go be­fore me be­cause I didn’t want her to have to go through the pain of plan­ning a fu­neral for me or to feel the lone­li­ness of be­ing left be­hind, not be­ing with the one you love.”

Eyes closed and paus­ing for a mo­ment to com­pose him­self, he re­cites a poem writ­ten for Beu­lah a few months af­ter the first time he saw her. As the strong au­tumn breeze whis­tles loud in the trees I, my dar­ling am think­ing of you. And I wish from my heart we will never de­part; to our vows we will al­ways be true. I’ll be true, dar­ling, yes true to you, till I own you as my own dear wife. I’ll be true, dar­ling, yes true to you, ever true all the days of my life. As my life now I plan and the fu­ture I scan I fancy it is you I can see. Set­tled with me in life for you’ll then be my wife and united in heart we will be.

EV­ER­LAST­ING LOVE - Ma­jor’s Ross and Beu­lah spent the last few years of their mar­ried life to­gether at the Colling­wood Downs Se­nior Cit­i­zens Home in Clarke’s Beach. The two shared nearly 73 years of wed­ded bliss to­gether and raised four chil­dren.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Colling­wood Downs

YOUNG LOVE - Ross and Beu­lah Cole on their wed­ding day, Nov. 26 1936. The cou­ple be­gan their life as hus­band and wife at the Sal­va­tion Army Corps in Clarke’s Beach, Con­cep­tion Bay where Ma­jor Cole’s par­ents had been sta­tioned years be­fore.

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