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Dorothy Thomas Kole in her mink stole

Remembering college fur-ever

Dorothy Thomas Kole often regaled her daughters with stories of her college years in Ashland – of her involvement in the theatre program, soliciting donations from community members of curtains, bedspreads, tablecloths and other materials that could be used to make costumes.

So it seemed only fitting to the daughters that they should donate a mink stole that was prized by their mother, who earned her teaching credentials in the 1938-39 academic year at what was then Southern Oregon  Normal School before beginning her life as a teacher and mother.

“We are so delighted that our mom’s mink will find a new home working as a theater costume piece,” daughters Linda Kole and Karen (Kay) Kole Leary said in a two-page, handwritten letter accompanying their recent gift to the SOU Theatre Department.

“She was involved in the plays Mr. Bowmer put on. (She always called him Mr. Bowmer.),” the letter said, referring to the late Angus Bowmer, who taught drama at the normal school and founded the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“She loved to laugh and tell about her big dramatic Shakespearean role,” Dorothy’s daughters said. “She had one line, ‘Master, he cometh!’”

Their mother had another key job in the play – she and a friend dressed as pageboys to open and close the curtains – but the daughters suspect that may have been “a bit of tomfoolery” by Bowmer.

Dorothy forgot over the years from which Shakespearean play that line had come, but her daughters narrowed it down by finding a playlist in the 1938-39 edition of the Oregon SON (as in, Southern Oregon Normal) yearbook. It could have been “Hamlet,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “A Comedy of Errors” or “As You Like It.”

“We’re not sure ‘master, he cometh’ is an actual line from any Shakespearean play,” the daughters said. “Perhaps Mr. Bowmer’s sense of humor was at play here, as well.”

Among the items that Linda Kole and Kay Kole Leary sent to the SOU costume shop along with the pristine mink stole is a photo of their mother wearing the fur piece and posing with her husband and daughters – who point out that they were “accessorized” with white, bunny fur hats and muffs.

“Our dad … does not appear to be draping himself in any dead animal skins, but we do have a photo of him with a dead dear draped around his shoulders in much the same manner as Dorothy’s minks,” the letter said, explaining that he was “packing it out on a hunting trip.”

Linda and Kay said that Dorothy – the daughter of a saw filer whose family had lived in Chiloquin, Ashland and Medford – loved her year at the Ashland college. She later taught in Oregon, California and Brazil

“She followed her brothers, Frank and Ralph, to Southern Oregon Normal and they all had careers as teachers,” the letter said. And it pointed out that due to her experiences in theatre productions, “she could make a costume out of anything.”

Dorothy Thomas Kole died in November 2019 in California, just short of her 101st birthday.

“Dorothy set her sights on living to 100,” her daughters said in their letter. “She planned on a ‘big birthday bash’ and lived a life that got her there. At her party, she danced to ‘Stardust’ and other songs that once echoed out of the old halls of Southern Oregon Normal School.

“Pet the minks for us every now and then, and give them our most fond regards.”