Dorothy “Dot” Cole, the oldest living Marine, has died. She was 107.
Her daughter, Beth Kluttz, confirmed Friday that Cole died of a heart attack Jan. 7 at Kluttz’s home.
Our deepest condolences to the family of U.S. Marine Sergeant Dorothy Cole. A Kannapolis resident, Dorothy (Dot), passed away last week. At 107 years old, she was the oldest living U.S. Marine. Semper Fidelis pic.twitter.com/CVRRdV8c7q
— Kannapolis, NC (@Kannapolis) January 14, 2021
The Marine Corps recognized Cole as its oldest veteran in September.
Cole was 29 years old when she enlisted in the Marines in 1943. Two years earlier she had tried to join the Navy, but, at 4 feet, 11 inches, she did not meet their height requirement, the Marine Corps Times reported.
Still, she wanted to serve.
“Everyone was out doing something ― there were women helping the Red Cross, or even in churches they were knitting things,” Cole said in a video the Marine Corps posted on social media. “So I decided that I wanted to do something and I would go into the Marine Corps.”
In July 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve into law, giving women the chance to fill positions left open by men headed to combat. The Corps delayed formation of the branch until February 1943, and Cole enlisted five months later, becoming one of the branch’s earliest volunteers.
She tried to persuade the Marines to let her be a pilot, like Amelia Earhart, but despite 200 hours flying a Piper Cub and completing six weeks of boot camp, she wound up “behind a typewriter instead of an airplane.”
She achieved the rank of sergeant before leaving the service in 1945.
Women were permanently allowed to serve in the Marines in 1948, according to the Women Marines Association. In 1995, the Marine Corps welcomed its first female pilot, Military Times reported.
Cole’s husband, Wiley, served in the Navy. She moved to San Francisco to be with him after the war where they married and had their only child, Kluttz.
Kluttz moved from California to North Carolina in 1976. Cole followed her to the area in 1979.
She is survived by her daughter, two granddaughters and six great-grandchildren, the Marine Corps Times reported.
Instead of flowers, she asked donations be made to Covenant Presbyterian Church, where she was a member for 40 years, or to the Marine Corps League Cabarrus Detachment, according to her obituary.