Editor’s Note: March is Women’s History month. We have been fortunate to have many women throughout history who are remembered for their contributions to their community, state, country and the world. This month we would like to recognize our women who contribute on a daily basis, quietly, in their own way. They may not make the history books, but they certainly deserve to make our pages.

BETHEL — “It’s always been a part of me since I was young,” Michele Varuolo Cole of Bethel said of her community spirit.

Cole updating the Bethel Rotary Club on their “Christmas for Children” project.  Submitted Photo

She was born in Long Island, N. Y., but moved to Wilton, Maine when she was six and has remained in the Western Maine area ever since.

Her interest in community work started at a young age. When she was a child, she’d tag along with her parents to any event she could.

At Mount Blue High School, she belonged to the Wilton Scholarship Committee, and at the University of Vermont (UVM), she joined a sorority and did work with the American Cancer Society. UVM proved to be the place where Cole found her dream major, recreation management. She opted to focus on the private sector part of the program, and as part of it, she was required to do an internship.

So she returned home and began sending letters to multiple businesses in the area. Sunday River Ski Resort was the first to respond. She did an internship under Wende Gray at the resort.


After finishing school, Varuolo Cole had her eyes set on a full-time position. She knew exactly what field she wanted to be in. The only problem was, most of the resort jobs were part-time.

She returned to her old job as swimming director for the town of Wilton. That same summer, she got a call from Gray and Sunday River owner Les Otten. They offered Cole a full-time, year-round position in marketing. She worked reception at the front desk.

“I kept getting opportunities,” she said, so she never left the small town she’s called home most of her life.

Every time Varuolo Cole considered leaving, something else would pop up.

“It was growing, it was growing then,” she said of the resort.

With Sunday River’s success, she had the chance to get involved with real estate.


She got her license and worked in the real estate and development office.

Varuolo Cole helped with the sales and furnishing of the condominiums and closed on many units also. Although every employee had a title, the “team” was small and people did whatever possible to help each other out. She was no exception. Otten’s administrative assistant Jolan Ippolito took extended time off in the summers and Varuolo Cole filled in to help with the increase demand in work.

Ippolito eventually transitioned into condo and lodging management, and Varuolo Cole was asked if she’d be willing to be Otten’s Executive Assistant. She accepted the job.

In the early 1990s, she began to venture outside of the mountain.

“Sunday River always encouraged its employees to integrate into the community,” she said.

In an effort to get more involved, she joined the Bethel Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.


She held many roles at the Chamber, including president when “Angus, King of the Mountain” was being built. She was also the chamber’s secretary and treasurer.

Constructing the snowman posed many challenges for the town, and Varuolo Cole said it would not have been possible without an entire community effort.

“It was a true community coming together,” she said.

One of her favorite memories with the chamber is the business to business survey. Chamber members had to come up with questions and then go out and get information. They conducted interviews with small and large businesses around Bethel. The idea of the survey was to get feedback on what those businesses wanted the chamber to be.

“It was quite a networking and it really stood out to me to see what people wanted,” Varuolo Cole said. “That was helpful and we got to know the members.”

In 2000, she made another transition, again sticking to her community roots. She joined the Bethel Rotary Club, a community service club.


Varuolo Cole was president last year, and has also been its treasurer and secretary. One of her favorite experiences with the club was helping award scholarships to SAD 44 students.

“That was very joyful for me because I’m kind of a behind-the-scenes worker,” she noted of the job.

“Christmas for Children” is another Rotary program Varuolo Cole enjoys. The long standing effort raises money for families in the area who are not able to give presents to their children.

She said that growing up, her family benefited from community support and for her, participating in that program was yet another way for her to give back.

“That really kind of clicked with me,” she said.

Varuolo has been active in other organizations as well. She played many roles in the Maine Handicapped Skiing program (now Maine Adaptive) for 18 years and still helps raise money for the program at the Ski-A-Thon. She served on the Bethel Comprehensive Plan Committee and subsequent Implementation Committee and the Ordinance Review Committee. She remembers working to codify all of Bethel’s ordinances into the current format.


She currently serves on the town’s Budget Committee, as treasurer for Fran Head, Representative of District 117 and as treasurer for Bethel’s Republican Committee.

She is also involved with the Project Opportunity, which is a 30+ -year-old scholarship program that aids Telstar High School students who want to attend college. She is now

the Otten board seat representative for the program.

Varuolo Cole has followed in the footsteps of her parents. Her mother was involved in the hospital auxiliary, the library and the Girl Scouts. Her father used to be in the Wilton Lions Club, served as the Mt. Blue District School Board Chair and now, at 82, still participates with the American Legion.

“It’s always been a part of who I am, I don’t know anything different,” she said.


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