Dr. Cole MacPherson passed peacefully at his beloved Lolo Creek property on December 26th at 87 years. Cole was best known for caring for patients as a dentist in Missoula from 1966 until 2012. He loved helping his patients by finding a treatment that served them well. Always willing to help a friend in pain or need, he often treated patients after regular business hours or on weekends. Cole was an affable man, who loved to share stories of his multi-faceted life usually centered on the ridges and rivers of Montana.
In 1950, Cole moved to Missoula from Wisconsin with his mother, Mabelle, and sister, Cloette. He graduated from Missoula County High School in 1953 and then attended the University of Montana (then Montana State University), graduating in 1957 with a degree in chemistry and wildlife. While attending the University of Montana, Cole served in the ROTC as distinguished graduate, swam on the UM swim team, and was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity.
Cole was especially proud of his military service in the Air Force, where he served as an officer from 1957 to 1962. Cole was stationed at bases across the United States as a Commander of explosive ordinance, including nuclear weapons.
Cole was equally proud of his time as a Smokejumper. After working for the US Forest Service as a teenager (1952-1956), he joined the Smokejumpers (1957) where he was based in West Yellowstone and Missoula. He spent his summers training and fighting fires prior to and after his time in the Air Force. After serving his country in the Air Force, Cole attended Dental School at the University of Oregon (OHSU) in Portland. Cole and family lived in Portland from 1962-1966, returning to Missoula each summer for his Smokejumper work. After graduation from Dental School in 1966, the MacPherson family settled in Missoula.
Cole met his beautiful bride, Thea Williams, at the University of Montana and they were married in 1957. They raised their two sons and many animals in the Missoula area residing up Miller Creek and Lolo Creek. Cole is survived by his sons, Bret and Scott; and three grandchildren: Ben, Tayla and Ian Trey MacPherson.
For most of his life Cole played handball, usually his lunch break from treating patients during the week. During hunting season, he spent as much time as he could in the mountains hunting elk, his favorite big game animal. One of his greatest joys was spending Wednesdays and weekends floating the Bitterroot River or cruising the high country in the middle of the winter.
Outside of his career as a professional, Cole pursued the work and art of the Outdoorsman. He lived the devoted and enthusiastic life as a Montanan: hunter, woodsman, fisherman, trapper, horseman, and mountain man. It has been said many times that Cole should have been born in the previous century when Montana was even wilder than his era of the mid and late 1900s. In the truest sense of Montana, Cole was a distinctive, one-of-a-kind man.
Cole will be laid to rest with a military burial ceremony (outdoor) at Missoula Veterans Cemetery, 1911 Tower St, Missoula, on January 13, 2023 at 2:00pm.
In honor of Cole MacPherson, a celebration of his life will be held at his place up Lolo Creek in March (announcement to follow).