Homer Cole, a big supporter for Pittsburg and Pittsburg State, died on Thursday after an illness.

He was 94.

After graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1943, he began attending Pittsburg State Teachers College (now PSU) in the summer, but by September he was drafted and sent to England to serve in the 487th Bomb Group. He flew 19 missions in Europe in World War II, and he earned the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart, Air Combat Medal. European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal and Air Medal with Three Oakleaf Clusters.

After returning, he attended Pittsburg State and played in 110 games — a school record that stood for almost 50 years.

He coached basketball, football and baseball while teaching school. He worked at McNally's for three years before coming to Joplin and serving as the Parks and Recreation Department director. He later managed bowling alleys across and area, including Plaza Lanes and Rangeline Bowlarama in Joplin and Holiday Lanes in Pittsburg.

Cole served on the Pittsburg City Commission from 1987-1991 and served as mayor one term.

Cole was a driving force in getting the Homer Cole Community Center, which provides programs, services and meals for senior citizens. He was the founder of the Government Day for high school seniors in cooperation with the Elk's Lodge, City of Pittsburg and Crawford County.

Cole was a regular fixture at Pittsburg State football and basketball games, and he was a big supporter of Gorilla coaches and players both on and off the court or field.

He was inducted into the PSU Athletics Hall of Fame Legacy Category as a meritorious achievement honoree in 2012.

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