BATAVIA – Sydney Cole’s story has been poignant and immediate.
He was on reconnaissance missions for the US Army Air Forces during World War II when he was shot down over Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.
He wrapped himself in his parachute to survive the freezing weather and his injuries, before being found by German soldiers. Not realizing that Cole was Jewish – he had the foresight to throw away his name tags – they put him in the back of a tank and he was taken captive as a prisoner of war.
Cole, 107, has died, Veterans Administration officials confirmed on Monday. He resided at Spruce Lodge at Batavia VA Medical Center and was one of the oldest surviving WWII veterans.
âSydney had a warm smile and a happy heart for her army of special friends and her son Richard,â officials said in a press release. “Among VA medical staff, friends and family, first-hand testimonies from the greater generation have been willingly told.” “It was an honor and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to serve as a healthcare provider for this revered and honorable veteran – he certainly exemplified all the qualities of a true hero,” said Dr Marc Maller, the VA Western New York Head of Geriatric Health Care System at the Batavia VA Medical Center site.
Cole was born in Buffalo in 1914 and later became a swimming qualifier for the 1936 Olympics. After being shot on January 2, 1945, he fought for his survival, facing the German armed forces, as well as the brutal winter weather conditions.
He was seriously injured by shrapnel and small arms fire when his plane was shot down.
Although he suffered horrific beatings and was treated as a prisoner of war, and was reduced from 150 to 80 pounds, Cole survived the last five months of the war in Europe. out of sheer will, VA officials said. His true courage as leader of the ranking as well as a positive attitude in the camp saved the lives of many prisoners of war who had almost given up.
He was eventually repatriated after the Soviet army liberated his POW camp in the spring of 1945.
After the war, Cole married and quickly returned to work, owning and developing several successful businesses, including a Ford car dealership, liquor store, and sports club in downtown Buffalo. In 2016, his former high school in Buffalo, now City Honors, awarded him his high school diploma in a special ceremony.
Most recently, Cole was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame. He received a special birthday celebration last summer at VA Medical Center.
VA Recreation Therapist Nancy Kaszynski cared for Cole for several years.
She noted âhow lucky and lucky we were to share memories with him. He was full of joy and he always thrived in the company of others.