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Local womans life focused on helping others
Tift Maddox speaks at the memorial service Sunday for Andrea Cole at Church Street Manor apartments in Gainesville. In front of Maddox is a group of photos of Cole. - photo by Tom Reed

Andrea Cole was quiet.

Her friends at Church Street Manor Apartments in Gainesville, a residence for elderly and disabled persons, say she wasn’t the type to walk up to you and start a conversation out of the blue.

Instead, it was Cole’s actions that spoke louder than her words.

Cole, a resident of the apartment complex for six years after debilitating arthritis and asthma forced her to retire from her job as a home health aide, kept right on helping her fellow residents, up until her death on March 9. She was 66.

It wasn’t until her sister, Joy Losee, began collecting Cole’s belongings that she realized the effect her sister had on the other residents. Cole would often drive them to doctor’s appointments, remind them of follow-up visits and even get them lunch as they waited in the office. Cole organized a twice-weekly bingo game at the apartments and took charge of getting the supplies and calling the numbers. And she was quick to offer a bowl of soup or some takeout food, even if you swore you didn’t need lunch, residents recall.

An appointment book Losee found in her sister’s apartment was filled with times and dates of her fellow residents’ doctor visits — and not her own.

"There were even some people who lived in another senior housing building that she helped, because I think at one time they had lived (at Church Street Manor)," Losee said. "They have come knocking on the door while I’ve been there trying to clean out. Also, they’ve called me; I’ve had a number of phone calls from people there, and while I’ve been there trying to clear out her things, so many of them are coming by."

Fellow resident Celestine Bailey said Cole was often quiet, even while waiting with her in doctors’ waiting rooms. But her calming presence and ability to help anyone who asked will be missed.

"Ain’t nobody else over there that does what she did," said Bailey, who sang two songs during a memorial service for Cole on Sunday at Church Street Manor. "She’ll be totally missed over there. ... she was a very nice lady."

Mary Allen, also a Church Street Manor resident, recalled how Cole would make sure she got to the doctor on time.

"She was one of the best people I know of. ... She made sure you got to your doctor’s appointments and you were on time," she said. "She carried you back to that doctor, and anything she could do for you, she would do."

And instead of worrying about her own health, Allen said Cole would put others first.

"And she made sure everyone had something to eat," Allen added, noting that Cole would take the opportunity during stints in the waiting room to get some food. "She said, ‘You eat. It’s past lunchtime.’ We’d sit in the doctor’s office and eat."

Apartment manager Angela Key said Cole’s presence will be missed.

"I didn’t know until after the fact, some of the tenants told me that she had been in pain for quite some time from different things. But she would put others before herself, just in taking them to the doctor and things," she said. "She was mostly a friend to them."

Now that Cole is gone, it’s up to the residents to find transportation, which often includes calling Hall Area Transit. Losee added that her sister’s generosity was simply a way to continue her work as a home health aide, even when her own body was failing her.

"I don’t know of a case where she refused anyone anything they asked," she said. "So I just think they’ve lost somebody who was kind of an angel to them. She was just their angel, and it’s a really big loss to them."

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