Donna Marie Albertson was born January 20, 1934 in Waverly, New York, and died May 7, 2020 in Annapolis, Maryland. During her life, she lived in Elmira, NY, Ithaca, NY, Orlando, Fl, and Annapolis, MD. She performed on horseback in rodeos, blew the lid off her high school math classes, obtained a chemistry degree after putting herself through college working at Thatcher Glass, fell in love with Don Cole, an attorney who she married in 1956, raised four children, ran a successful and ever-expanding business, started her own consulting company, and in retirement turned her prodigious energy to teaching the game of bridge to other retirees in order to have an endless supply of bridge partners. Donna also enjoyed organizing book clubs and outings around the Orlando area, and entertaining her seven grandkids, all the while dispensing life lessons, strong opinions, and admonitions to push ourselves to do more and be better.
Donna worked at Corning Inc. (Corning Glass) as a chemist for three years after her graduation from Elmira College in 1956. Once her first of four children was born, she left Corning Inc. and focused on other pursuits. With endless energy while raising her children, Donna also worked many political campaigns on behalf of the Chemung County Republican Party, ran Elmira College’s largest fundraiser, the Octagon Fair, taught college chemistry, was a Girl Scout troop leader, participated on the advisory board of Hedding Methodist Church and Westside Methodist Church, taught Sunday school, and was chairwoman of the Elmira City School District committee to oversee consolidation of schools.
In 1976, Donna took a position as the Business Manager of the Manpower Temporary Services franchise in Elmira NY. The business soon ballooned into a leading employment service, and in 1988 Donna became the Regional General Manager, after opening satellite offices in Ithaca, Corning, and Norwich, NY. She assumed management of the Binghamton office, and also initiated and opened the region’s Technical Division, the first woman in Manpower’s franchises to do so. Donna won the Manpower national “Power Award” for the largest year over year revenue increase, five years in a row, from 1981 to 1985.
Donna became very involved in regional economic development - elected in 1984 to be the first woman president of the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce, a Chamber board director for six years, and a board director of Southern Tier of New York Economic Growth, all during some very rough economic years for upstate New York. Donna was customarily asked to take on some of the difficult and controversial projects that faced Elmira.
She was selected in 1990 as the first Chemung County recipient of the Athena Award, a national Chamber-sponsored award for businesswomen of notable achievement in their communities. But she never stopped taking up projects for her family; she sewed her kids clothes, hosted amazing birthday parties with elaborate home-baked birthday cakes, planned family reunions and family vacations at every historic site in America, spent weekends with her family boating on Seneca and Cayuga Lake, knitted very large Christmas stockings for all the grandkids and energetically dragged family visitors around to every Disney World theme park as often as they could tolerate. In retirement, she planned many trips for she and Don – continuing to explore the world.
Donna lived a very full and very happy life. She did everything with “hyper enthusiasm”. A close friend described their first meeting: “I met her when she and I were class mothers for our sons’ first grade at Hoffman School. She immediately organized the activities and classroom, and she had a laugh that filled the room. The minute I heard that laugh I said to myself, ‘I have to get to know that woman.’” Donna spent the past two years in the Alzheimer’s unit of Brightview retirement home in Annapolis. Right up until her death, she had a well-known infectious laugh and continued to make friends and enjoy life wherever she lived, including the staff in Alzheimer’s facility. Her four kids are continually amazed and impressed by her accomplishments and the people who loved being with her.
Donna Albertson Cole was the only child of Don and Cecile Albertson. Donna was predeceased by her husband of 58 years, Attorney Donald Cole, in 2014. She is survived by her four children: Elizabeth (Cole) Powers, married to Chris Powers; Marjorie Cole, married to Robin Doane; Lucinda Cole; and Raymond Cole, with Raquel Ramirez, as well as her grandchildren: Mark, Kate, Grace, and David Powers, children of Beth and Chris Powers; Cole and Walker Semans, children of Cindy Cole; and Kiara Taveras, daughter of Raquel Ramirez; and her first cousin Dave Albertson, married to Sharon Albertson.
A celebration will be planned for later this year in Elmira. In lieu of flowers, tax deductible donations can be sent to Elmira New York’s performing arts center:
In memory of Donna Albertson Cole
PO Box 1047
Elmira, NY. 14902