- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - It was a night 35 years in the making.

Three and a half decades ago, Boston-native Jon Cole boarded a Greyhound Bus and headed west. The young sports broadcaster was looking for his first gig in the business.

He found it in Williston.

His career culminated with an honor of utmost significance for the Bakken staple. On the evening of Dec. 16, during the Coyotes boys and girls basketball home openers, the new gym at Williston High School was named in his honor, the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/2hLOHfE ) reported.

“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” he proclaimed from the podium, with eyes swollen and red from shedding tears.

There was no shortage of former colleagues and Williston leaders who stepped to the podium to share kind words and thoughts.

Tate Cymbaluk, Williston city commissioner, fittingly began the ceremony as he was the one who put the wheels in motion to name the gym in Cole’s honor.

“Jon has dedicated his life not just to the Coyotes, but to Williston,” he said. “He could have moved to a bigger market, but it wasn’t about the money. His name is synonymous with the Coyotes.”

Next was Williston Mayor Howard Klug.

“We got it right this time,” he said emphatically. “We’re naming this gym after Jon Cole, truly one of our finest citizens.”

It didn’t take Cole long to achieve legendary status in the MonDak. Kelly Buechler, a former KUMV colleague, said there was always an air of excitement when Cole stepped into a building for one of his pieces, even a handful of years into his career.

That was crucial for the future of local news in Williston. Lee Timmerman, who is the voice of the North Dakota State Bison, said Cole’s name recognition saved the station.

Research consultants came to the area looking at how news was received near Williston found that Cole’s name was recognized at rates their firm had never seen.

After a tribute video containing clips from Cole’s 35 years at KUMV played on the scoreboard, the man of the hour stepped to the podium.

Not wanting to keep the Coyotes basketball team on the sidelines for longer than necessary, he kept his remarks brief.

“I just want to thank this community for this night I will never forget,” he said. “I am very proud to represent this city.”

He thanked the many guest speakers who came from far and wide on the night. He also thanked Ralph Lockwood, the former radio voice of the Coyotes who passed away in September.

The ceremony concluded with Cole being presented with a letterman’s jacket dated 1981, the year he landed in Williston. It will ensure that he will forever be a Williston Coyote.

This is just one of many honors Cole has received in his illustrious career. In 2015, he was named to the North Dakota Associated Press Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame.

He has also been named North Dakota Sportscaster of the Year five times and has received the Western Star award from the City of Williston.

“To have them put your name on the gym while you’re alive, what a wonderful pat on the back,” he said. “Look at this night. Who gets this? It just shows you the great people that are here.”

To cap of the evening, Cole tossed the ceremonial first tip for the boys basketball game between Williston and Bismarck.

The first game of many in the Jon Cole Gymnasium.


Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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