Spending time with Timolin Cole and Casey Cole is like spending time with your best sister-friend: They’re hip, engaging, full of smiles and laughter, highly intellectual and good conversationalists.
The youngest daughters of international music legend Nat King Cole, are well aware they’re from music royalty of the highest level and of their father’s iconic stature in the annals of music history. But the 49-year-old identical twins with model good looks appear down-to-earth, leading rather normal lives.
They live in suburban Boca Raton and, in many respects, they’re like other Boca soccer moms. They are stay-at-home wives – well, sort of. Their kids go to public schools and they have hobbies, such as reading, swimming and playing tennis.
If that all sounds quite traditional, you’re right. But, make no mistake about it, there is the other side of life for these women – the more famous side.
The sisters grew up in Los Angeles, the youngest children of Cole and his wife of 17 years, Maria, also a noted singer. Their parents were married in New York City on Easter Sunday, 1948, by the famed Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in one of the biggest society affairs of that time.
Although they were only 3 and a half years old when their father died, their early years were spent around other show biz kids and families. They attended schools with the children of other stars and “just knew” they were part of a famous family. But, they are quick to point out, it never went to their heads.
“We had a very privileged life but we had a sense of value,” Casey said in an interview in the patio in her backyard, where she was joined by Timolin and the family’s huge Labrador Retriever, aptly named King.
“We may have grown up in a beautiful home, we may have had, ‘help,’ and we may have gone on some lovely trips, driven in lovely cars, and we may have had the finest. But we were not brats, if you will,” Casey said. “We were raised with manners and respect. We had responsibility.”
“The brunt of our teen years,” Timolin said, “was in New England and that’s when life really got normal.”
At age 11, their mother moved them to her home state of Massachusetts, far from the glare of the Hollywood spotlight. And, unlike their elder, famous sister, Natalie, who is 12 years their senior, they never caught the singing bug. Instead, they went on to Ivy League colleges and received a formal education, as did Natalie before she went on to pursue a music career.
Timolin, who is two minutes older than Casey, graduated from Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., with a degree in English. Casey attended Brown University in Rhode Island and graduated with a double major in French and International Relations.
Timolin worked in public relations, representing the likes of family friend Harry Belafonte, while Casey worked as an international translator for the Olympics. They eventually married and started families.
Thriving public relations work and her husband Gary Augustus’ work as a music producer – he has switched to sports entertainment — brought Timolin to South Florida in 1991. They have two boys.
After Casey’s husband died from a heart ailment, Timolin talked her into relocating here with her young son. She has since remarried, to Julian Hooker, a former Dallas Cowboys football player. In addition to her son, she has two stepdaughters.
While juggling multiple roles with their respective families, the sisters still are close, even living just minutes away from each other.
Although they both manage their family’s business affairs, their main focus now is on philanthropy. They honor their father’s memory through their Nat King Cole Generation Hope Foundation which they set up in 2008 in response to budget cuts in music education in South Florida public schools.
The foundation provides funding for music education for children of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and diversities, including instrument instruction, composition and songwriting, technical instruction in the recording arts, instruments and equipment and field trips and seminars.
“We felt very strongly about wanting to do something about bringing music back into the schools,” Timolin said in an interview just before presenting musical instruments valued at $5,000 to Jeaga Middle School, 3777 N. Jog Rd., West Palm Beach, on Dec. 9.
“And, of course, we wanted to preserve our father’s legacy. Our father was a pioneer and music legend who transcended color and race. During his lifetime, the arts were an integral part of the educational curriculum. Today’s youth are art-starved.”
The initiative is important, she says, because the arts impact a student’s self esteem, dropout rates, and even test scores. “The benefits of the arts are so amazing and wonderful that we felt it should be brought back into the forefront. We’ve always been advocates of the arts,” Timolin said.
Tom Pearson, Arts Education Administrator for Palm Beach County Schools, met the sisters two years ago. In a recent conversation, he mentioned a need for instruments at Jeaga and they responded. The school has experienced a burst in students signing up for the band and, according to Principal Kevin Gatlin, 80 percent of the student enrollment at the school live below the poverty level. Most cannot afford their own musical instruments.
“The Cole sisters found Jeaga a nice opportunity to give back to the community and it helps us with our vision to keep the arts alive in schools,” said Gatlin.
John Jarvis, owner of the Music Man Inc. of West Palm Beach sold the instruments to the foundation at cost.
On the night of their annual Winter Concert, Jeaga band members felt like royalty, as the two famous sisters came to present the instruments.
“They’re excited about it,” said Band Director Lonnie Hill. He explained that, due to the generation gap, the students had to get a crash course on Nat King Cole and his music.
But, clearly, on seeing the new flutes, trombones, saxophones, trumpets, snare drums and clarinets, the students were thrilled, as were their parents.
“This will make a huge difference for the students,” Pearson said.
And that is exactly what the sisters have set out to do in their father’s honor, Casey said.
“We felt that if you could touch one heart, you could touch so many others, as our father did with his music and with his voice and the incredible way in which he was able to pull people in,” she said.
“I don’t believe that if we were to just go around saying that we were ‘the Cole sisters,’ it would really be a substantive thing to say. I think you have to do something with your life. And I think you have to give back. I think this is our calling.”
For more information on the Nat King Cole Generation Hope Foundation, visit their website at ww.natkingcolefoundation.org.
Daphne Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Luby/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES. PROMOTING THE ARTS: Timolin Cole and Casey Cole, twin daughters of the legendary musician Nat King Cole, donated $5,000 for instruments for the Jeaga Middle School band program in West Palm Beach on Dec. 9 from their Nat King Cole Generation Hope foundation.