Marjorie Jean Emerson Cole

Marjorie Jean Emerson Cole died Feb. 22, 2023, at the age of 86 after a short illness.

Marjorie loved her family, friends, neighbors, students, and dogs. 

She taught special education in Lawrence Public Schools for more than 20 years, working above and beyond for her students.

Together with her late husband and children, she started a family business, SoftCole, which produced Type To Learn, a game-based software program used in many school districts.  It helps children learn to type while also mastering fun facts about science, history, geography, and other topics.  After she retired, she volunteered with an AARP Tax Program providing free tax preparation services.

She was born July 29, 1936, in Alameda, Calif., to George Albert Emerson and Arlie Virginia Williams Emerson. She grew up in Galveston, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas, where she met Richard Cole; they married May 31, 1958.  They moved many times before settling in Lawrence in 1965. Richard, a longtime member of the philosophy faculty at the University of Kansas, died April 2, 2013.

Marjorie’s sisters are Catherine Emerson (Abigail Young) of Toronto and Carolyn Needleman (the late Martin Needleman) of Providence, Rhode Island. Marjorie was preceded in death by her brother, Fred Emerson, and her parents.

Marjorie’s children are Mark Cole (Gretchen) of West Chester, Penn.; Wendy Cole Ashlock (the late Dan Ashlock) of Guelph, Ontario; and Aletha Cole Musser (David) of Somerville, Mass.

Grandchildren are Sam Cole, Josh Cole, Hannah Cole, Benjamin Cole, Charlotte Ashlock, Peter Arrow, Richard Ashlock, and Walter Musser. Great-grandchildren are Thomas Cole, Elizabeth Cole, and Clementine Cole.

Her beloved dog is Toby. Her late dogs include Banana, Ebenezer, Shaggy, Noble Dog, and Molly.  She also had cats named Howard, Papillon, and Effy.

She was a voracious and eclectic reader, and her favorite author was Charles Dickens. She was leader of a Dickens Readers group that gathered to take turns reading aloud and then have tea. In honor of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, she made a plum pudding every Christmas while someone, usually the youngest person at the table, read the passage from Dickens.

A fierce advocate for democracy and voting rights, she volunteered with the League of Women Voters and had been the Lawrence chapter’s secretary and treasurer. She also served as a poll worker.  A sign in her study says “Your Vote Matters.”

Marjorie’s greatest wish is for everyone to get a good education and to be good citizens.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Lawrence Schools Foundation at, or the League of Women Voters at; checks may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain.

A memorial service will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 2, at Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th St.; the service will be live-streamed at Private interment will follow at Pioneer Cemetery.

9 Condolences

  1. Heidi yoder on February 25, 2023 at 6:03 pm

    I had the honor of having Marjorie at my grade school as a teacher growing up. It was very special of that later on in life I was re-introduced to her doing landscaping in her yard. Marjorie is one of the smartest, kindest, most sincere individuals I will ever know in my lifetime. My heart goes out to her family and this time of their loss. She always had a smile and Something positive to give to the world. She will be greatly missed.

  2. Gwyn on February 25, 2023 at 8:04 pm

    Many blessings and hugs to Marjorie family.
    And hugs to Toby.

  3. julie denning on February 26, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    I have had the pleasure of getting to know Marjorie while working in her garden for many years. She was quick to come out and tell me of her recent projects.She had a real lust for Life and was very active in the community. I know the League of women voters- and many other organizations are going to have a void in her absence. Marjorie loved to have her family visit and liked to travel to see them as well. She was always proud to give me updates of her grandchildren. I am sad that we will never have another conversation, but I am sad for Lawrence because they lost a true soldier for Democracy.Toby was about the luckiest dog that ever lived and he and Marjorie were great companions for each other.Big scuffles to that little guy too. Rest well Marjorie.

  4. Don and Linda Herbel on February 27, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    I had the opportunity to work with Marge when she was a special education teacher for USD497. She helped hundreds of children improve their reading and math skills. She supported classroom teachers by sharing teaching strategies and creative ideas. She was always patient and kind. She used positive reinforcement to motivate her students. It was a pleasure to have her as a co-worker.

  5. Jane Fowler Morse on February 28, 2023 at 9:47 am

    I have known Marjorie Cole since 1959. We met when our husbands were graduate students in philosophy at the University of Chicago. Marjorie was my mentor and my best friend. Both our husbands taught philosophy at KU. At first we were “faculty wives,” but we soon forged our own professional credentials, studying education at KU and then teaching in the public schools. We grew up together, through many adventures: play dates, family parties, outings, picnics, dinners, Opera Club, book clubs, and holiday celebrations. Marjorie gave of herself generously to everyone: her family first, her friends, her students, and her community. She cared deeply for social justice and strove to create the conditions in which every person could flourish. Her generosity of spirit was unmatched. Her judgment was spot-on. Best of all, Marjorie brought these together in her actions. She did not sit idly by, watching things happen. She strove to create a better world. Throughout, she maintained her quiet manner, always listening to others, always kind, always supportive. Goodbye, my dearest friend, how we all shall miss you!

  6. James Musser on March 3, 2023 at 12:40 pm

    We are so grateful to have shared so many Christmas celebrations with Marjorie, Aletha, David and Walter. Always delightful, always a joy to be in her presence. To a wonderful life lived so well!!! Hugs to you all!

  7. Jan Hickam Bogart on March 3, 2023 at 6:10 pm

    Much love to all the Cole’s and Ashlocks and Mussers. Your mom, grandma, great grandma was an amazing person and I’m so glad she graced your lives. She was supremely welcoming of her children’s friends when we were teens and young adults. The Cole’s was the perfect after school hang out space. I’m so sorry you’ve lost her but so glad she influenced your lives and loved you.

  8. Shannon D. McCoy on March 5, 2023 at 8:32 am

    I”m grateful to have known Marjorie and many of her family for many years as they traveled in and out of Lawrence. My condolences for your loss.

  9. Sandy Sanders on April 1, 2023 at 1:07 pm

    I met Marge Cole decades ago when she was on the staff at Cordley, where I also taught. She was always a friendly and competent person, able to be both warm and caring and very organized and productive. I used Type to Learn, the program she and her family created, to teach hundreds of children computer word-processing skills. It was an excellent program in the transition to personal computers. Her abilities also made her an outstanding advocate for voting rights and participation in democracy. I miss her cheerful, friendly personality. My thoughts are with her family.

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