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Toy Fund: Milt Cole, former sports editor, remembered with donation

  • Milt Cole File photo



Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Soon after David Perlmutter started working as a sports reporter for the Gazette in 1984, he said sports editor Milt Cole forced him down the hall to sign up for the company’s savings plan.

It was an unremarkable act for the then 25 year old, but now Perlmutter said he looks back on Cole’s insistence that day as a wise piece of advice.

“If I ever do get to retire, it’s because Milt made me join the savings plan,” Perlmutter said with a laugh. “I feel like I kind of owe him for that.”

Moments like that are the reason that Perlmutter, now 60 years old, has for years been donating to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in honor of Cole, who died in 1997. Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression.

“Milt was just a great guy, he was a real character. He loved to rib people relentlessly, but he always had this twinkle in his eye,” said Perlmutter, who spent 28 years working in several roles at the Gazette. “He really cared about people.”

Cole was briefly editor of the paper for two years before Edward Shanahan took over that role in 1971, leaving Cole to become sports editor, which was his true passion.

“He was the soul of that newspaper,” Shanahan said upon Cole’s passing. “Always he was the center of attention. It wasn’t the publishers. It wasn’t the editor. The Daily Hampshire Gazette was Milton Cole.”

Cole was known as an unabashed fan of the teams he covered, particularly the University of Massachusetts Amherst men’s basketball team and the Boston Red Sox.

“The ‘no cheering in the press box’ thing did not apply to Milt,” Perlmutter said.

Recently retired Gazette opinion editor Stanley Moulton said that Cole was a “real workhorse” in the sports department, where for a large chunk of his tenure he was the only staff.

“He really cared about community journalism, and he really understood the mission of papers like the Gazette,” Moulton said, noting that his knowledge and passion was not limited to sports alone. “He really was supportive of young reporters, and if young reporters wanted to listen to him, he’d counsel them.”

Moulton said that Cole was not shy with his opinions, though he stressed that they were “always well-reasoned.” Those arguments poured out of Cole, who was known for the incredible length of his columns.

More than anything, however, Cole was known for his personality.

“He was a character,” Perlmutter said. “He was a big part of the Gazette for many years.”

Today, the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Berkshire Children & Families at 220 Russell St. in Hadley verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; Faces, 175 Main St. Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The ToyBox, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com.

Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.