Share this Tribute

Let the family know you
care by sharing this tribute.

John H. Cole

John Herbert Cole was born on April 4, 1929 to Dennis and Dove (Largent) Cole in Winchester, Virginia. He passed away on May 29, 2021 in Reston, Virginia at the age of 92.


John was married to Laura Kathryn McIlwee for 66 years until her death in 2018. Together, they travelled the U.S. as well as the world. In 1952, they married in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had two long tours in France (all together nearly seven years) and a stay at Kagnew Station, in Asmara, Eritrea (then Ethiopia), and lived in North Carolina, Maryland, California, New Jersey, and returned to Virginia to call Sterling their home.

John is survived by sons Juan Ricardo (Shahin), Eric Gregory (Cindy); daughter Angela Priscilla (Randy); as well as grandfather to Shirrin (John), Matthew (Angela), Arman (Laura), Sierra, and James; and great grandfather to Brady, Teagan, and Gage. He is also survived by his loving sisters, Mary and Nancy (Bill); his nieces, Sharon, Becky (Ralph), Alice Jean (Joe), Diane (Junior), Nancy (Hank), Darlene, Debbie, Dinah, Dawn and nephews, Gene (Donna), Kevin (Julie) and Scott and many special cousins.


John was a terrific athlete and worked out three times a week until the last week of his life. In 2004, John won the Gold Medal in the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics tennis championship. He played tennis up into his late 80’s. He often told the story of how the local high school tennis team learned of how good he was and that they would take bets on who would be the first one to beat “that old man”. Much to their embarrassment he never lost to any of them. In high school, he was a triathlete, he played baseball, football and ran track.

In 1995, at the age of 66, he climbed all 14,505 feet of Mount Whitney in California and is registered as having done so at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.

John was an active member of the Cascades Senior Center. He valued friendships and was always eager to share fellowship with his friends. After retiring at 84 years old, John became an active volunteer and was celebrated by Loudoun County for his volunteer service at 90 years old. John held bingo every Tuesday morning at the Center until the pandemic. He also held a pot luck dinner once a month at the Senior Center.


John served in the United States Army for 20 years, from 1948 to 1968, finally retiring as a Staff Sergeant (SSG). Over the span of twenty years, John served all over the world during the Korean and Vietnam as well as the Desert Storm time period as a contractor. He served with the Army Military Police in Okinawa, Japan in 1948 and Sandia Base in New Mexico from 1950 to 1954. From 1954 to 1958 John served at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Paris, France. John then served in the U.S. Army Microwave School in Fort Meade, Maryland in 1958. From 1959 to 1961 he served with the U.S. Army 102nd Signal Battalion in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1962 he served at Fort Detrick, Maryland, Coligny Caserne Orleans in France from 1963 to 1965, Hughes Satellite School in Los Angeles in 1965, U.S. STRATCOM in Fort Dix, NJ in 1966, U.S. STRATCOM Kagnew Station Asmara, Ethiopia from 1967 to 1968. Lastly, John served as a defense contractor during Desert Storm Operations in Saudi Arabia as an Aviation Electronics Specialist.

Awards and Decorations

At the time of his retirement from the Army John was able to wear the National Defense Service Medal, six Army Good Conduct Awards, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Army of Occupation (Japan), the Korean Service Medal, as well as his designation as an Expert with the carbine on his uniform.


A graveside service with military honors presented by the United States Army is scheduled for Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 11:00 am at Winchester National Cemetery in Winchester, Virginia. All guests planning on attending should plan to arrive no later than 10:30 am. The Patriot Guard Riders of Virginia will be in attendance as honored guests.

Special Acknowledgements

In lieu of flowers, the Cole family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization or your favorite charity in memory of John Cole.

Friends, family, and those who served with John are invited to share a memory and sign his guestbook below.


Leave a condolence

Email addresses will not be displayed on this site.

  • John and Elly Dunlap says:

    Mr Cole had a full and eventful filled life right to the end. He and his wife were a great couple. We are very sorry for your loss. If there are sporting events in Heaven, I know he is in line signing up.

  • Becky Sine says:

    Uncle Johnnie and Aunt Laura were my two favorite Uncle and Aunt. I will never forget the time one summer when I came to visit with them that he took Angie and I to D.C. He took us to the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and we climbed the stairs to the top of the Washington Monument. They were two such very special people and shaped so many lives of those that knew them. Love and Prayers to Angie, Rick, Juan and their families to get through this trying time.

  • Diane Powers says:

    John Cole was one of the kindest, most intelligent and hard working men I have ever met. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and community. It was a privilege to have known him and Laura. I am so glad to have spent time with them on my last trip to VA. “That old man” was truly amazing.

  • Angela Zentz says:

    My dad was so much more than just these few words. He was everyone’s cheerleader. He believed the best in everyone. He never had a harsh word for anyone. Dad I know you are up in heaven and I love you and miss you very much and will think about you everyday for the rest of my life. I will miss your encouragement. And I will miss you consistently telling me that I can do anything that I set my mind to. You were the best!!

  • Harold Looney says:

    Thank you Cole family for sharing Both John And Laura with us for so many years. In addition to the Senior senior center as well as the Reston monthly movie, we also had weekly coffee at our favorite Macdonald’s for over (20) years. They were very close and very loving friends and I often introduced him to others as I new found Brother and sister. Thank you John and Laura for you long friendship and we will always love you alll and hope to join you in n the kingdom. Thanks for sharing your financial wisdom with me and I will continue to share it. RIP friends and we love you.

  • Don Wesley says:

    John ws one of the best people that I ever worked with! In professionalism, values, faith, strength, and courage. He was always ready to help others where he could, and give advice, and tell a story. He will be missed by all those who knew him, especially coworkers, among whom he is a legend.

  • Bill Georgen says:

    I knew John a long time, at Melpar/Falls Church, and then working with him in Palmdale, CA, testing airborne surveillance systems. I played tennis against him regularly in Falls Church, VA as well as Palmdale. I did manage to beat him, but me being 30 years younger, and he hobbling with elbow strain and a bad knee, it was always a battle to the very end. When I hit a shot cross-court, he would actually switch the racket to his other hand to try to get to it…point is – he was tenacious at whatever he did, and a winner in his own right….the “iron man” will be missed.

    Sincerely and sympathies,

    Bill Georgen

  • Juan Cole says:

    My father, John H. Cole, was a truly great man. He was always a rock you could depend on, a sage to give the best advice, caring and kind. He was the glue that kept relatives and friends together, always reaching out to keep in touch. Despite his considerable accomplishments in life, he never lost his sense of humility. I told him shortly before he died that I knew he had touched many people as a role model for how to live a good life, and that we had been so lucky to have him in our lives as that model. I will miss him every day

  • Shahin Cole says:

    It was so touching to see the slide show of his early life. My father-in-law had such an active life and was such a great athlete. He was a giver. When I was recuperating at his house after my surgery, he made salads and dinners for me every single night and brought them upstairs to me. The pandemic stopped me from seeing him last year, but I am glad that I had his favorites, ice cream, apple pie and cupcakes, delivered to him for his birthday. In our recent, last conversation over the phone he made me promise that I would to come to see him next Christmas, regardless of the pandemic. I was planning to do that. A sad day that I lost my champion. May he rest eternally and peacefully in the best part of Heaven.

  • Darlene Cole says:

    My memories of Uncle John were a man in uniform with beautiful Laura and his children by his side. He visited family members many times over the years and always had an interesting story to share. The family reunions were always fun.  His mother began the reunions and he carried them forward so many years later.  Uncle John, I will miss you.  

  • Arman Cole says:

    My grandfather was a man of integrity, grit and humility. My whole life I was inspired by his discipline, mentally and physically, his athletic accomplishments, whether in tennis, weight lifting, or hiking, and his tireless work ethic. But he was no austere workaholic. He was full of charm, warmth, and wit, with a wonderful sense of humor. Just a few weeks before he passed, I posted a photo of the carrot harvest from my garden on Facebook and he congratulated me in the comments. I’m not sure how many 92-year-olds actively use social media, but my grandfather was always learning, never content to sit and let the world pass him by. He was a remarkable person, and I’ll miss him dearly.

  • Bruce Jerome says:

    My deepest condolences to the Cole family from my wife Connie and myself. As a young 26 year old Technician starting out at E-systems in 1982, 52 year old John Cole took me under his wing to become my most valued supervisor, trainer, mentor and guardian for almost 15 years at work. John has also been my most dearest friend, confident and life coach for 40 years and will continue to be so for the rest of my life. I’ve known no finer man or human being with common sense values you could trust and bet your life on. I will miss John deeply, think of him often, love and remember him always !
    Bruce and Connie Jerome

  • Eric and Nancy Henry says:

    John will be missed by everyone he touched in his 92 years that the good Lord allowed him to share his wisdom. God has taken him home to be with Laura.

    I worked with John for many years at E-Systems in Falls Church. We carpooled from Sterling, every morning, driving Rt.7 and laughing with Howard Stern. He and Laura will both be missed,

    We send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.

  • Dan Coney says:

    What an amazing life led by John, and an inspiring story of the fullness with which he obviously lived it. Condolences on your loss, and what comfort it must be to remember the legacy he has left for you.

  • Faheem Ahmed says:

    We are deeply sorry to hear of passing of Mr. Cole. He was a true gentleman always very patient and appreciative. May he rest in peace and God bless his soul.

Call Now Button