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David Dargavel Cole.

/Courtesy of family

David Dargavel Cole: Builder. Traveller. Teacher. Father. Born May 16, 1928, in Windsor, Ont.; died Feb 27, 2020, in Sudbury, of acute myeloid leukemia; aged 91.

Dave Cole was nothing if not resourceful. He could repair anything. He designed and built in wood, canvas, steel, stone and concrete. He was curious about everything that crossed his path.

At 17, he gave the church youth group secretary his phone number, and within seven years, he was married to Eleanor Atkinson. They would welcome four children over eight years, but first built a home in Sudbury with material salvaged from an old Inco pumphouse. Dave dismantled, transported and rebuilt it in the evenings after work.

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Dave had tried university, but preferred more practical work. He became a draftsman at Inco, then, in the 1960s, he was recruited to be a shop teacher at Lasalle Secondary School, where he spent the rest of his career.

His building skills were so well known that the Archbishop of Algoma asked him to fix up a donated youth camp. Dave volunteered at Camp Manitou for 60 years, influencing the experiences of many campers and leaders.

Dave loved to get out on the water, and took his family through Lake Huron’s North Channel to Expo 67 in Montreal on board a 27-foot trunk-cabin dory. When a rock was struck, Dave made a temporary repair and reached the Big Chute Marine Railway by the end of the day. Always resourceful in daunting situations, he convinced the lock master to dry dock the boat overnight so he could make a proper repair. The family reached the fair and spent a happy two weeks at the Expo 67 marina.

Anne was 12, Leigh was 10, Mollie was 6 and Richard aged 4 when Eleanor was diagnosed with leukemia and died within a few weeks. Dave was devastated, but kept putting one foot in front of the other, as he did his whole life when faced with the impossible.

The next summer, he took a solo holiday on a supply boat that served communities in Labrador. Sheila Seddon, an English midwife working in Flower’s Cove, Nfld., was also on board. Love struck in Happy Valley, where they held hands for the first time. Sheila and Dave married, and two more children, Mike and Tom, followed.

In 1973, the entire family flew to England to meet Sheila’s relatives. Dave knew all eight would not fit comfortably into the small car he purchased so he also bought four bicycles. The family spent two months exploring England, Scotland and Ireland in combinations of pedalling, driving, camping and hostelling.

At 58, Dave retired. He and Sheila set off on more travels and frugally visited 34 countries. When he was 86, spurred by curiosity, Dave and Sheila drove from Sudbury to Fort McMurray, Alta., to fly over the tar sands. They continued west to the Sacred Headwaters in British Columbia and tracked down explorer Wade Davis. Unannounced, they knocked on his front door and enjoyed a lovely visit. Their last long trek together, when Dave was 90, was a road trip out West to see grandchildren and great-grand children in Alberta and B.C.

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Dave Cole taught by example, expecting those around him to live with purpose. He whittled, he caned, he manufactured steel boats, he recanvassed canoes, he made jam, he could darn a sock and iron, he harvested timber then made things from the lumber. He made sure his children knew the recipes for mixing mortar and concrete. He embraced internet banking and started a knitting project the month before he died.

Dave was unconventional. Sometimes it embarrassed his family, but it made them resourceful. He taught his children to pay attention and to engage in the world. He taught them how to make up their own minds.

Anne Cole is David’s daughter and Ron Mulholland is his son-in-law.

To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go to tgam.ca/livesguide

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