Cover photo for Richard Clare Cole's Obituary
1936 Richard 2024

Richard Clare Cole

June 30, 1936 — May 18, 2024


Richard Clare Cole, a beloved music educator, conductor, husband, father, and grandfather, passed away on May 18, 2024, at the age of 87. He was born in Elmhurst, IL, on June 30, 1936, to Dorothy Schook Cole and Clarence Marion Cole. Richard spent his early years in Lombard, IL, and Lincoln, NE, before graduating high school in Indianapolis, IL. His love for music led him to pursue a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science in Music from Indiana State University where he honed his skills and developed a deep passion for orchestral conducting. He then pursued a doctoral degree at Indiana University.

Richard's dedication to music education and performance took him to Montana and Oregon where he conducted orchestras before moving to Virginia in 1971, to join Virginia Tech where he helped develop the music department and served as conductor of the New River Valley Symphony. His influence and commitment to his students at Virginia Tech spanned 46 years, with his retirement on July 1, 2017.

Beyond his professional achievements, Richard was a man with diverse interests and an infectious sense of humor. He found joy in travel, classic cars, photography, and most of all his family. Richard was known to be the "favorite uncle," the one who brought laughter to every conversation. He delighted in sharing puns and Dad jokes and his gift for conversation left a lasting impression wherever he went.

Richard C. Cole will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and the countless lives he touched through his passion for music and his warm, engaging spirit. His legacy will continue to resonate in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing him. 

Richard was preceded in death by his parents, and beloved sister Vickie Cole of Wasilla, AK. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Carol Cloe Cole; his brother Walter Cole of Seattle, WA, his son Ben Cole (Clare) of Beverly, MA; daughters Amy Cole Rizzico (Sam Jr.) of Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, and Christine Cole of Christiansburg. He was the proud grandfather of Isabel and Nathaniel Cole, and Ava, Sam III, and Alec Rizzico. 

A celebration of Richard's life will be held on June 2, 2024, at Cambria Baptist Church, in Christiansburg, VA, officiated at 3pm by Dr. Keith Crowgey, where friends, family, and former colleagues will come together to share stories and remember Richard’s life. 

The family would like to thank Good Samaritan Hospice for their care and compassion. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Richard Clare Cole, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Starts at 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

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