Obituary: Rev. Wallace Bartz Cole

Rev. Wallace Bartz Cole. (Courtesy)

Rev. Wallace Bartz Cole. (Courtesy)

The Rev. Wallace Bartz Cole, 94, passed away on January 16, 2023 in Prescott, Arizona of natural causes. He was born to Garn and Laura Cole in Lake Crystal, Minnesota on May 30, 1928.

He graduated from Lake Crystal High School as valedictorian of his class. In his teen years he served his country in World War II in the Minnesota State Guard, and later in the United States Army Reserve for three years. He was employed by the U.S. Postal Service in Lake Crystal for five years.

Wally was a Boy Scout, and assistant scoutmaster, and a Boy Scout council member. He was awarded the Brotherhood Honor by the Boy Scout Order of the Arrow. He enrolled at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota in 1950, spent a summer working at Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, another summer as a tour bus driver at Glacier Park, Montana, and graduated from St. Olaf with a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude, with majors in history and German language. Throughout his lifetime he enjoyed studying in six languages.

Wally married the love of his life, Fern D. Olson, in 1955, a year after beginning studies in Christian ministry at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He and Fern spent a year in San Diego, California where he did an internship study at College Lutheran Church. Wally graduated from Luther with a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained into the ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, a predecessor body of the present Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Together with Fern, he served churches in rural Mapleton, Minnesota for seven years; Rock Point, Arizona, which included the founding of a congregation, Sodizin ba Hoghan (House of Prayer), and serving as the director of Navajo Lutheran Mission for 25 years; and Prescott, as part-time visitation pastor at American Lutheran Church (ALC) for 20 years. While at Rock Point, Wally was president of a coalition of Christian leaders who consolidated and published the first Navajo nation-wide Christian hymnbook. He and Fern contributed heavily to the translation of the New Testament into a “Good News for Modern Man” style of conversational Navajo. And he developed five Navajo lay preachers who assumed leadership of House of Prayer upon his retirement. In Prescott, when not serving the ALC community in many ways, Wally served on the council of the Alzheimer Association of Northern Arizona and as part-time chaplain at Yavapai Regional Medical Center.

Wally was preceded in death in 2019 by Fern, his wife of 64 years, and is survived by two sons, David (Mary) and Steven (Charlotte); six grandchildren; a sister-in-law Evelyn Olson of Ortonville, MN; 13 nieces, nephews and spouses; and a cousin Onalee Iverson of Sioux City, IA.

Wally and Fern were awarded the designation “Distinguished Alumni” by St. Olaf College, and the “Exemplar Medallion of the University” by California Lutheran University.

Services are pending at American Lutheran Church in Prescott. Memorial gifts can be given to the American Lutheran Church Endowment Fund, 1085 Scott Drive, Prescott, AZ 86301.

Please log on to to sign Wally’s guestbook and share a memory with the family.

Funeral services entrusted to Ruffner Wakelin Funeral Homes.

Information provided by the funeral home.

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