Kenneth W. Cole, Oak Ridge

Kenneth W. Cole, age 93, of Oak Ridge, passed away June 3, 2021 at Canterfield Assisted Living of Oak Ridge. He was born to Walter Raymond Cole and Kathleen Margaret Green, January 2, 1928, in Syracuse, New York. Growing up in New York he spent time on the family farm and enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. Upon graduating F.D. Roosevelt High School in 1946, Ken joined the U.S. Navy, serving in Panama. After being honorably discharged, he attended Barrington College where, in 1951, he received a BA in Bible.  That same year, Ken married the love of his life, Konny. He then graduated from Shelton College with a BA in Biology and then in 1965, from the University of Delaware with an MS in Entomology.

In 1965, Ken moved with his wife and son to Oak Ridge where he started work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His career as a research scientist would cover over four decades at ORNL and University of Tennessee.  During his career he conducted research in such areas as the effect of radiation on genetics, whether certain forms of leukemia were virus induced, the use of recombinant DNA, and various aspects of cryobiology for which he received international recognition after successfully freezing and re-animating complex-celled organisms. Ken overcame two life-threatening conditions during his life. When he was twelve, he was diagnosed with polio and in 1973, he and his son were struck by lightning in Stone Mountain, Georgia, which burned a significant portion of his body. When not working, Ken enjoyed birdwatching, photography, bicycling, hiking, playing harmonica, and travel. He especially enjoyed spending time camping in the Smoky Mountains. At the time of his passing, Ken had been a decades-long member of the Oak Ridge Alliance Church where he sang in the choir, sang duets with his beloved wife, Konny, taught Sunday School, and served in various positions of church leadership. Previously, he had been a choir member, deacon, and Sunday school teacher during the 1970’s at Glenwood Baptist Church. A devoted husband and father, he was preceded in death by wife, Konny, and sister, Mavis.

He is survived by only child, Douglas Cole and wife, Karen of Sterling, VA, four granddaughters, Katie Larimer and family of Christiansburg, VA, Kristina Peralez and family of Rochester, NY, Samantha Cole of Sterling, VA, and Alicia Cole, of Sterling, VA, eight great-grandchildren, two sisters, Jacqueline Fowler and Lenora Vendt, and brother, Emerson Cole.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Oak Ridge Alliance Church, 109 Raleigh Road Oak Ridge, TN 37830, or to the Alzheimer’s Association, 225 N. Michigan Avenue, Fl. 17, Chicago, IL 60601,

The family will receive friends 1-2 pm Friday, July 16, 2021, at Oak Ridge Alliance Church. A Memorial Service will be held at 2 pm with friend and Pastor Dale Crank officiating. A fellowship meal will immediately follow the service. An online guestbook is available at

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Kenneth Walter Cole please visit our Tribute Store.

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