Mrs. Cole was a native of Honolulu and received her A.B. from Dominican College in San Rafael, California, and a Bachelors of Education from the University of Hawai‘i. She was married to the late Captain Allyn Cole, Jr., USN (Ret).
In the early 1970s, she served as an Advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. During her time in this role, she and Charles Black organized a conference on each of the Hawaiian islands with the National Trust and other citizens of Hawai‘i to discuss the growing concern for preserving Hawaii’s historic places. In 1974, at the conclusion of the conference held in the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, these like-minded individuals formed “Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.” The founding directors were Mrs. Cole, Mr. Black, Jan Campbell, Robert Fox, Carl Klunder, Aaron Levine, and Thurston Twigg-Smith.
Thanks to the undying dedication of Helen, she and her fellow founders built Historic Hawai‘i Foundation from a group of 250 in 1974 to a group of over 2250 members by 1977. Helen was integral in this effort, tirelessly writing letters and making phone calls to build the momentum and develop the membership.
There were two places of primary concern for Helen and Historic Hawai‘i Foundation in the first years of its existence. The first was the Royal Brewery in downtown Honolulu. The members of Historic Hawai‘i were able to advise and encourage the owner to restore the historic building instead of demolishing. Thanks to these efforts, the Royal Brewery still exists today.
The other major concern was for Honolulu’s historic Chinatown. Nu‘uanu Avenue in particular was in imminent danger of falling to the wrecking ball for street widening plans through the federal government’s Urban Renewal program. The members of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation saved the heart of historic Chinatown so that it could become the corridor of culture and the arts that we enjoy today.
In addition to Historic Hawai‘i Foundation, Helen was a member of over 60 organizations. She served as a Regent of the Daughters of Hawai’i; a member of the Board of Directors of the State Council on Hawaiian Heritage; a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the Capital District; a Director of the Hawai‘i Museums Association, Liaison Committee of Heritage, Bicentennial Commission, Board of Directors of Hawai‘i Council on Culture and the Arts; and as a member of the Women’s Committee of Association for Hawaiian Music.
In 1989, a fund was established in memory of her husband to honor his legacy by enhancing and perpetuating ongoing educational programs. The fund was used to create Historic Hawai‘i Foundation’s video “Generation after Generation”; allowed Historic Hawai‘i Foundation staff to attend national preservation conferences; and aided in the development of a historic preservation curriculum at Hawai‘i Pacific University.
Mrs. Cole unselfishly served as chairman, president, membership chair, editorial board member and Trustee Emeritus of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation. In 1998, Helen was honored as Historic Hawai‘i Foundation’s Kama‘āina of the Year.
Helen will be greatly missed. She passed away only a few days after the 35th anniversary of the organization that she founded. However, her legacy continues each day through Hawaii’s historic places and is a living tribute to a life well lived.
Funeral services for Mrs. Helen Cole will be held on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 11:30a.m. at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu. Aloha attire. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Historic Hawaii Foundation or the Daughters of Hawai‘i.