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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

R&W’s Stalwart Cole Mourned

Barbara Cole

Barbara Cole

Margaritha Barbara Cole, 84, who provided memorable retail warmth at the R&W Gift Shop when it was a large operation on the B1 level of Bldg. 31, died Apr. 19 in Maryland. She had retired in 2006 after a 27-year career at NIH.

Cole, universally known as Barbara, came to NIH in fall 1979 on a part-time basis, to accommodate her three kids’ school schedules. 

Many of her customers became friends. 

“The NIH Recreation and Welfare Association and the NIH were a brighter place because of Barbara Cole,” said R&W President Randy Schools, on the occasion of Cole’s retirement. “She brought forth a smile for all, welcoming comments and a sincere desire to help employees with their personal and professional needs. She treated employees with respect, and they in turn treated her like family. Always available to listen, she will be remembered most for her distinguishing trait of kindness.” 

Cole was born in Casablanca, Morocco, the daughter of Swiss parents who came to Africa as colonists from Europe. Her first language was Schweizerdeutsch, a Swiss-German dialect, and she also spoke Arabic, in order to get along with the natives. She learned French in school, as France had taken over Morocco. 

Perhaps her penchant for attentive personal service was inherited: “Both of my grandparents were in business, and they always stressed the importance of high ethical standards,” she said. 

Cole lived in Africa until age 22. During a brief visit to the United States, she met Jack Cole, whom she later married. At the time of her retirement, they had 12 grandchildren, 8 of whom “live within 3 miles of us,” she noted, delightedly. 

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