Brothers, 85 and 82, to claim lost railroad stock
D. Randall Cole came back from the Vietnam War much quieter than when he left home.
He spent a year stateside learning the Vietnamese language, then more than a year as a military policeman, living in villages and providing security for friendly Vietnamese citizens. He divulged that much to family but not much else.
“He became much more of an introvert than when he was younger,” remembers older brother Doug Cole, 85, a retired educator who lives in the Huntington area. “He never, ever elevated any conversation to a level of detail. It was just a general reaction to everything.”
“Randy” – the family never called him Randall – returned home to a lifelong career on the C&O Railroad, later to become the CSX Corp. He bought stock in the company but apparently did not keep up with cashing his dividends or timely correspondence with the company. In that scenario, stock certificates and dividends become unclaimed property administered by State Treasurer John Perdue’s office.
About a week before Christmas 2018, a representative from the Treasurer’s Office called Doug to tell him Randy had died with about $83,000 in unclaimed CSX stock. Because Doug and another brother were Randy’s only living heirs, the assets naturally fell to them.
Split two ways, the checks work out to $41,731 each. Doug accepted the money early February at Marshall University’s Drinko Library, on behalf of himself and his brother, 82, who prefers to remain anonymous.
“To reunite heirs of a true patriot with their rightful assets, well, it doesn’t get any better than that in the unclaimed property world,” Treasurer Perdue said. “This state has a long history of men and women volunteering for service. Randall Cole is just another example.”
Doug and his brother had already settled the estate of Randy, who died in 2017 at age 67. He left no will. The two brothers had no idea any more loose financial ends remained.
“I want to thank the representative from the Treasurer’s Office who informed us of what we had coming,” Doug said. “He was very supportive and helpful and took a lot of time with us. Neither my brother nor I will live long enough to do much with this money but maybe it could go into a family legacy for Randy.”
Randy graduated from Ceredo-Kenova High School shortly before the family moved to Buckhannon. He then enrolled at in-town West Virginia Wesleyan College. In addition to providing him with a top-notch, private school education, his enrollment would also exempt him from the draft. He even joined student protests against the war. Then one day he came home with a drastic change in plans.
“He went in and told my mom and dad, ‘I think I’ve shot my mouth off long enough so I’m going to go over there and see what it’s all about,’ ” Doug recalls.
Afterward, he never talked about what he saw, like many soldiers. He did like to eat, dining with his brothers at least once a week. He never married or fathered any children.
“He kept to himself,” Doug said. “He really didn’t have any political views to speak of. You couldn’t even tell if he was a regular voter or not. On summer outings to Myrtle Beach he was always good with the younger kids. Had he met the right person, he would have been a good husband and father. He was pretty easy to please and pleased when people tried to do things for him.”
As Randall reached his 60s, Agent Orange, a chemical used to denude the jungles of Vietnam, began to exert its effects on the youngest Cole brother. He developed cancer in his mouth; the chemical assault stretched from ear to jaw on one side of his face.
Even then, Randall was loathe to bill the government for his care. Only toward the end, with cancer eating away at him and at 100 percent disability, did he begin to use his VA Medical benefits.
“He felt like he could take care of it,” Doug remembers. “He never felt like he had anything coming to him.”
He did. And now his brothers do.
Treasurer Perdue’s administration has returned approximately $190 million in unclaimed property since he took office in January of 1997. Unclaimed property is any financial asset from which an individual has become unintentionally separated, such as a final paycheck, utility deposits, or -- in the case of the Coles -- stock holdings. Real estate does not figure into the equation.
For more information on the Treasurer’s Office Unclaimed Property Division or to peruse the lost asset database, go to www.wvtreasury.com or call 1-800-642-8687.