Alaska pioneer Elizabeth Castle/Cole left us for the Kingdom of God on October 9, 2020. Elizabeth was born May 12, 1931, in The Dalles, Oregon to Annie Louise Shannahan and Garver Castle. A woman of faith throughout her life. Bette, Liz, or however you knew her was an influence in many Juneau lives through work in her church, Faith Lutheran; her community of Capital City Quilters, the years with the State of Alaska, and the family business Climco Constructors and the many friends and neighbors lives she touched. She was always quick to smile and very much enjoyed a good conversation.
Elizabeth Castle came from humble beginnings. Her parents were hardscrabble ranchers in Eastern Washington. In her younger years growing up in the Columbia Gorge on her parent’s ranch she would spend a lot of time riding horses, roping cattle, driving trucks and at one time was rodeo queen. She attended school in Lyle, Washington graduating in 1949, and then attended college in Vancouver, Washington. She worked for an accounting firm in The Dalles, Oregon until she relocated to Juneau in 1962, first living with her Aunt and Uncle, Harriette and Percy Reynolds, long time owners of Percy’s Café in downtown Juneau. She quickly met other Oregon ladies, they rented a house on Goldbelt Avenue, named it “the Oregon Girls House”, gaining lifelong friends, that worked in the community.
In 1963, she met a fine young man also of humble beginnings, Clifford Cole started out the son of a logger killed in his work, his mother remarried Jim Cole. Following graduation from MIT, with a degree in engineering and military service he returned to Juneau, became involved in his father’s business and fell in love with Bette. They married in 1963 in the little town of Lyle, Washington right under the hills of her family’s ranch.
Generous and loving and eager to have a family, they quickly filled up their home with three, bright, busy, and boisterous children. Bette was the model mother making sure her children had all the opportunities from dance lessons to golf and tennis lessons. Yet they were always grounded in her and Clifford’s humility and hard work.
Between 1969 and 1981, Cliff and Bette made their home between Bainbridge Island and Juneau. They worked in the family business of Cole & Paddock until Clifford’s father retired, they spun off their own business, Climco Constructors. Both businesses were the principal builder of many bridges, docks and ferry terminals throughout Southeast Alaska. Bette was very much a partner in the business, keeping the books, investing and managing the properties.
They returned full time to Juneau in 1982, Both working for State of Alaska, and retiring in 1997. Bette loved to travel, she and Cliff were able to see a good portion of the United States and Europe. Before slowing down and spending most of their time between Juneau and Bainbridge Island.
Following 55 years of marriage, Bette was preceded in death by Clifford in 2018. She is survived by their daughter Susetta Cole (John Kern) of Juneau and two sons, Curtis Cole (Cammie) of Wenatchee, WA and Conrad Cole (Sherice) of Juneau. She has eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.