Man’s unclaimed railroad stock returned to surviving brothers

February 9, 2019
Doug Cole, 85, of Huntington, left, speaks after being presented an unclaimed property check from State Treasurer John Perdue on Thursday inside John Deaver Drinko Library in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — D. Randall “Randy” Cole kept to himself, never married and hardly ever talked to his older brothers about his experiences during the Vietnam War.

During his nearly 30-year career at what would eventually become the CSX Corp., he dedicated many hours beyond what was required of him. He was such a busy and private person that it did not surprise his older brothers to learn he left behind unclaimed stock in the railroad company after his death in 2017 at the age of 67. However, it was surprising to learn the unclaimed stock dividends amounted to $83,462, said his older brother, Doug Cole, 85.

West Virginia Treasurer John D. Perdue presented Doug Cole with a check for half of the money Thursday. The other half will go to Randy Cole’s other brother, who wanted to be anonymous.

“Randy was never married, was a very quiet person and I can even say he was unusually dedicated to his work. He spent many hours over and above the 40 hours a week that he was contracted for,” Doug Cole said. “That in a way probably contributes to the fact he accumulated this money and lost track of it. He was very busy, and I’m sure he forgot that he had it.”

When a member of Perdue’s office called the Cole brothers to let them know about the unclaimed stock, they thought it was a scam.

“The longer we talked, we found out that it was real stuff,” Doug Cole said. “Naturally, we were quite a bit surprised because we had no idea this was available.”

Perdue said it was exciting to reunite the brothers with money that is rightfully theirs. He presented a ceremonial check, along with the real one, to Doug Cole at Marshall University’s Drinko Library.

“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,” Perdue said. “This state has a long history of men and women volunteering for service. Randall Cole is just another example.”

Randy Cole graduated from Ceredo-Kenova High School before moving to Buckhannon, where he enrolled in West Virginia Wesleyan College. When the Vietnam War broke out, he was exempt from the draft because of his pursuit of higher education and he later joined anti-war protests. His plans all changed one day.

“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 Cole said.

Randy Cole volunteered for the Army, spending one year learning Vietnamese before serving as a military police officer. He served as a private before moving up the ranks to become a sergeant.

It was in Vietnam he was exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical used to defoliate jungles. When he reached his 60s, his exposure to the chemical led him to develop cancer in his mouth. The cancer spread to his ear and jaw on one side of his face before claiming his life in 2017, Doug Cole said.

Randy Cole always looked over his family despite his ill health, spending time with his brothers’ children and their children.

“He was one that was looking out for other people,” Doug Cole said. “He just didn’t think about himself, but thought a lot of everyone else.”

Doug Cole said he isn’t sure how the new windfall of money would be spent, but he’s sure it will go to helping his surviving family.

Since January 1997, the West Virginia Treasurer’s Office has returned approximately $191 million in unclaimed property. Unclaimed property is any financial asset separated from its owner, such as final paychecks, utility deposits or stock holdings.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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