Rock Star Tony Cole
by Gayle Marechal
(Published January 2022)
To say that Tony Cole has led an interesting and varied life is an understatement. Born in Los Angeles but raised in Arizona, Tony, a product of the 1960s counterculture, moved to Eugene, which he describes as “paradise on earth,” in 1968 with some like-minded folks to start a commune. His path has been one of exploration, an exploration that reveals a complex individual with a committed spirit. From ore truck driver to English language teacher in Japan to graduate student at PSU (where he earned an MA in Applied Linguistics), Tony has packed more into his lifetime than most would experience in several.
In 1995 after more than ten years of teaching in Japan, Tony and his Japanese wife moved to Portland and bought a house not far from one of the entrances to Mt. Tabor Park. The park quickly became a second backyard to Tony, and like others who frequented the park, he was interested enough in its well-being to attend a meeting at Bertha Guptill’s house in 2000 where Friends of Mt. Tabor Park was born. Thus, Tony became a founding member of Friends of Mt. Tabor Park, and his “natural disposition to examine” the various plants in his environment led him to want to seek out and remove invasive plants such as ivy, clematis, and scotch broom that he had observed in the park. What began with Tony as an informal process of invasive plant removal evolved into a park-sanctioned activity and regular monthly work parties led by Tony.
To make the public more aware of the invasive plants problem, Tony wrote articles for the Southeast Examiner and the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association newsletter. As interest in the effects of invasive plants on the health of the park grew so did the number of volunteers who began to come to the monthly work parties. Tony credits Mary Kinnick with bringing organizational skills to the expanding monthly work parties. More volunteers meant that more supervision was needed, so with Mary’s help, a crew leader training program became part of the process, and soon this branch of the Friends of Mt. Tabor Park had a name, Weed Warriors, suggested by Tony. The newly named Weed Warriors already had an office at the park, tools and protective gear to work with, a first-aid kit, and now an official name.
Tony’s accomplishments are many. Not only is he one of the founding members of Friends of Mt. Tabor Park, but he is also the founder of what became the Weed Warriors and the first recipient of the Friend of the Year Award. Tony is a self-published author of six books, has climbed Mt. Fuji twice, has built a cabin on his property in the Oregon Coast Range, and has worked to make the park a more ecologically healthy place. While likely not obvious to most park visitors, Tony’s significant contributions to the park make him a true Rock Star of the Friends of Mt. Tabor Park.