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.
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.
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.