BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A local veteran received some long overdue recognition as a hero, Friday, by his Congressman, local veterans groups, and the high school whose swim team he led to championships before dropping out.
U.S. Army Capt. Sydney Cole was not only a war hero, he was a star athlete, served in the military for two countries, was a Prisoner of War, and became a Distinguished Alumnus of Fosdick-Masten Park High School, now known as City Honors.
Capt. Cole left Masten Park High School without his diploma, in 1933, as many young men did during the depth of the Great Depression. But when war broke out in Europe, he jumped at the chance to defend his country, even before the United States entered the Second World War.
U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins arranged for Cole to receive several medals that were long overdue, “This is like a movie script, and he is such a handsome, charismatic guy, he could star as himself in this great movie.”
When Cole was turned down by the U.S. Army Air Corps, he went up to Toronto and joined the Canadian Royal Air Force until the United States declared war, and the Buffalonian returned and joined the U.S. Army.
Cole was flying an artillery observation plane on January 2, 1945, and was shot down. Wounded by enemy gunfire, Cole was taken prisoner by German soldiers, and spent the rest of the war in a POW camps.
In bestowing Cole with 10 belated war medals, Higgins called the retired captain a living example of the Greatest Generation, “Capt. Cole’s heroism, at the risk of his own life, his dedication to the principals of freedom, his exemplary devotion to his duty as an American fighting man, are in keeping with the highest tradition of the American Military.”
For that, Buffalo school officials took the extraordinary step of applying the 102-year-old’s life experiences toward a belated high school diploma, and induction into City Honors High School’s Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
City Honors principal, Dr. William Kresse noted, City Honors would later take the name, Fosdick-Masten Park, “This is your Fosdick-Masten Park High School Diploma, Sydney, and it is sealed with the same seal that (then) Principal Hersey would have used in 1934.”
Capt. Cole seemed overwhelmed by it all, “This time of my life, right now, is the most I have ever had of a group that really appreciated what I did with my life.”