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Retired Vernon Justice remembered for work ethic, laughter

Supreme Court Justice Frank Cole (retired) dies at age 79
Retired Vernon B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frank Cole has died at the age of 79. (Morning Star - file photo)

”You take your work seriously, not yourself seriously.”

Words echoed by his former boss Neil Davidson always stuck with Frank Cole.

The former Vernon lawyer and Supreme Court of British Columbia Justice died Nov. 5, in Vancouver, at age 79.

“In the courtroom, Justice Frank Cole made the lawyers work. And, in the hallway, he made them laugh,” wrote former Morning Star editor Parker Crook, who attended Cole’s mandatory retirement at age 75 in 2018.

Cole was joined by about 100 people including family, friends, lawyers, judges and former Chief Justice of British Columbia Robert Bauman in celebrating his retirement in Courtroom 301 at the Vernon Court House.

Cole was born and raised in Galt (now Cambridge), Ont., earning a business degree from Ryerson University before moving on to law school. Summer breaks were spent at the Chateau Lake Louise, where Cole was a bellhop, making friendships that lasted more than 50 years.

While Cole spent the last two decades of his career practising in Vancouver, he would often take any and all opportunities to sit in Vernon courts.

He was called to the bar in 1971 and practiced family law for two decades in Vernon, starting at Davidson and Company (now Davidson Lawyers), then at Sigalet, Maguire and Cole. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1996.

In his retirement, Cole was pushing for a new court house to be built in Vernon.

In a September 2021 interview with The Morning Star, Cole recalled how he would go up the elevators in the current facility to the third floor, where supreme court is located.

Then, while trials were proceeding, he’d be escorted through the hallways by a sheriff during breaks or ends in the proceedings while members of the public walked about. Same holds true in the Vernon Court House for provincial and civil court judges.

A 2011 assessment made by architects, said Cole, described the lack of security in the Vernon Court House, which turned 100 in 2014, as “startling.”

“What is needed is to bring the existing courthouse up to current standards and use it for civil trials,” said Cole. “The court registry should remain in the courthouse and Crown counsel and the probation branch should be returned to the courthouse…”

Cole said a new courthouse designed for criminal trials should be built either at the side or the back of the existing courthouse and can be connected with secure access.

Cole not only served the courts, but the community. He on the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society board, was once president of the Vernon Bar Association and was a former member of both Silver Star Rotary and the Vernon School Board.

“Frank, in his career, has given voice to those who are voiceless and those in need,” Chief Justice Bauman said at the start of Cole’s hour-long retirement ceremony.

Cole is survived by his wife of 45 years, Lesley; daughters Heidi (Sean), Sarah (Walter) and seven grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Bob (Margaret) and many extended family members.

A celebration of life is planned for spring 2023 in Vernon.

READ MORE: Longtime Supreme Court Justice retires in Vernon

READ MORE: Retired Vernon Supreme Court Justice seeks new courthouse

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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