The nation’s oldest living Marine veteran died of a heart attack on Jan. 7.
Sgt. Dorothy (Schmidt) Cole enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The 29-year-old initially had attempted to join the Navy two years earlier but was told she didn’t meet their height standards.
The Marine Corps recognized Cole, born Sept. 19, 1913, in Warren, Pennsylvania, as the oldest living Marine in 2020 on her 107th birthday.
When Dorothy Schmidt Cole joined the Marine Corps in July 1943, she wasn’t thinking about the impact her service would have on the Corps or on generations of women to come. She just wanted that stylish uniform.
“Everyone was out doing something ― there were women helping the Red Cross, or even in churches they were knitting things,” Cole said in a memorial video tweeted by the Marine Corps. “So I decided that I wanted to do something and I would go into the Marine Corps.”
She joined just months after the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve began training women to fill positions in male-dominated fields. Her service laid the foundation for women to serve in roles across the Marine Corps today.
“Women Marines have served at every rank up to lieutenant general, leading and making Marines,” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Joseph Butterfield told Marine Corps Times on Cole’s 107th birthday in September 2020. “Marines like Sgt. Cole helped pave the way for this continued tradition of service and sacrifice.”
Fair Winds and Following Seas
Join us in saying goodbye to Sgt. Dorothy (Schmidt) Cole who passed away last week as the oldest living Marine.
Last year, “Dotty” shared her story as she celebrated her 107th birthday. Semper Fi, Marine. pic.twitter.com/QUMVbt0sy4
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) January 12, 2021
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After completing six weeks of boot camp at Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina, Cole proceeded to spend two years typing correspondence for officers in Quantico, Virginia.
The centenarian Marine passed away at her daughter’s home in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reported.
She is survived by her daughter, two granddaughters and six great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, Cole requested that donations be made to Covenant Presbyterian Church in Concord, North Carolina, where she was a member four more than 40 years, or the Marine Corps League Cabarrus Detachment, according to her obituary.
Marine Corps Times reporter Jared Morgan contributed to this story.
About Harm Venhuizen
Harm Venhuizen is an editorial intern at Military Times. He is studying political science and philosophy at Calvin University, where he’s also in the Army ROTC program.