What do you say about the kind of man who is only kidding when he “complains” about having a son who lives at home? Well, nothing opinionated—this is a biography, after all. So let’s examine a life the way Bob Woodward examined John Belushi.
Pete Best was unemployed, Castro was excommunicated, and JFK was innocently making love to Marilyn Monroe. Meanwhile, in a Maryland hospital, Sharon Cole was giving birth to Richard Cole. It was a relatively quick birth for the early ’60s, lasting only 53 hours. In the year that followed Richard would come in contact with every person to be credited with his eventual downfall.
On the day of his birth, well-wishes were sent from far and wide. One can’t help but imagine the amount of times the remark “What a beautiful baby!” was heard. Still, Richard Cole was about as “beautiful” as any other baby born in that particular ward on that particular day, perhaps a little less. This did not shake Richard’s young and burgeoning charisma. He sauntered over to the ladies with the grace of any newborn—attempting to roll over on his side, failing to do so, and then crying about it. In the months to come, he would survive on a healthy diet of breast milk and undercooked lamb chops.
His childhood was spent in uninterrupted study: learning to walk, learning to talk, and picking up a pretty mean Charleston. At the age of five, Robert Cole would come into the world. It was a year before the Manson Family went mainstream—murder was in the back of the American mindset—and so Richard and Robert were left alone in an unlocked house for hours on end. It was a simpler time. The two became fast friends, like-minded companions spending hours going on adventures in the comfort of their own living room. Yet, as the two matured, the idea of “playing inside” grew tired. Richard longed for something more, and, though young, Robert knew there was an entire world beyond their backyard. So, the two brothers hatched a plan.
In the summer of 1970, Rich and Rob would adorn themselves with the finest of tattered clothes, novelty cigars, and false beards and join the boxcar trade. Two wayfaring Fauxbos, with one goal: To see the world. A goal cut short due to the fact that the American Railways did not cross the Atlantic OR the Pacific.
It was the night of June 12th, Harry and Sharon Cole put the brothers to bed at eight, and by nine the two were one mile into a 25 mile hike to the nearest train station. Once they reached their destination, Rich and Rob settled in for a little R&R, or as Rob would later call it “R&R&R&R.”
They woke up in Virginia, realizing they had forgotten two things: an essential supply of beans, and any sort of money that could be used to buy said beans. “Well this isn’t that big of a problem, Rob. We’ll just wait until someone finds us, and we’ll explain that we’re just kids who forgot to bring food. Surely the conductor will take pity on us,” said Richard, in an attempt to console his brother.
“You have a point, but don’t call me Shirley.” Rob was always lightyears ahead with regards to pop culture references.
Three days passed before the conductor would find them, and by then their false beards had grown into real ones. No matter how Rich and Rob protested, the conductor refused to believe they were children and tossed the mini-hobos off the train, leaving them stranded in Georgia without money or food. Fortune smiled down upon the two boys, as they soon found work in the peach fields, picking peaches for a dime a day.
This was an important summer for the two brothers. They learned the value of a hard day’s work and the importance of sunscreen, and gained a healthy appreciation for gospel music. By the end of the summer they had enough dimes to buy a single first-class ticket back to Maryland. Of course, for this price they could have bought two, but Coles always travel in style. Robert stole an old man’s trench coat, and with Rich on his shoulders the two boarded the plane headed home.
Seventh grade was a time for puberty and a time to disregard the potential for true love. Awkwardly walking through the hallways of Baker Jr. High, Richard met Lori Bellison. She was the girl of his dreams, but would take him 10 years to dream about her. Like any classic romance, Richard was instantly put off when his friend Chip looked him straight in the eye and said, “Don’t waste your time on that broad. I hear she’s a real stick in the mud.” Young and gullible, Richard didn’t, believing his time could be spent better elsewhere. A wise move, considering that at the time Lori considered him to be “a total dork.”
In observing this archival photograph of a young Richard Cole (Circa ’74), one can observe that Lori’s initial analysis was not far from the accurate. With over sized glasses, high-wasted pants and hair that flew in an uncertain direction Richard Cole was far from The Fonz (A cultural icon from “back in the day”). Stylistically Richard would remain in this awkward phase until he attended the University of Maryland. Little is known about this phase in Richards life. Even when directly asking the source about his time there you will be fed the following remark “a fine institution.”
Many speculate that Richard spent that time in service to UMD’s secret fraternity, Shell and Bones. The same fraternity that enabled Richard to later rise through the ranks at the United States Patent and Trade Mark Office, where he currently works as a Supervisory PCT Legal Examiner. Shell and Bones is well known within the copyright/trademark/patent society. A group powerful enough to secure alumni Jim Henson a trademark on the word “Muppet” but not quite powerful enough to lock down “Puppet.” It is said that to even print the name Shell and Bones is to incur $29,666 in royalty payments-per use.
Richard emerged from UMD an employed, pipe smoking, suspender enthusiast, a new look that would forever change the heart and mind of Lori Cole. It also would play to Richard’s advantage that her ex-fiancé was “a cheating son of a bitch, but that’s in the past now.”
The two dated for three months before Rich would decide that Lori was the only girl for him, and that moment he hatched a plan. He would take her back to Shrine Mont, a small mountain town where they had been to many church retreats awkwardly avoiding one another—the same small mountain town where Richard’s own parents had met and eloped. Together, Richard and Lori hiked up to a large wooden cross, and as the sun set, Richard asked for her hand in marriage. Richard Cole was not without a backup plan, for there were two paths to the cross and Richard brought only one flashlight on their hike. Were Lori to turn him down he would leave on going down the simplest path with the flashlight in hand, leaving Lori to stumble down the mountain, in the dark, alone. Fortunately Lori made the right choice, and five years later Kevin Cole was born (it was an unusually long gestation period).
Rich now lives in a rural Maryland with his wife and a son who won’t pay rent. He has a daughter who studies theatre in a different state (but this story isn’t about her). He was last seen making breakfast, eggs, and toast. His current whereabouts are unknown.