Alexandria Obituary: Colgate Selden Prentice

Alexandria Obituary: Colgate Selden Prentice

Colgate Selden Prentice (“Coke”) died on July 28, 2016, in Medford, N.J., with his three children by his side. Born on Jan. 10, 1924 in Newport News to a southern mother and Yankee father, Coke spent much of his childhood in Tidewater. He lived in Alexandria from 1951 to 1990.

In 1943, at the age of 19, Coke joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served in the Pacific theater as a Chief Gunner on a B-29.

After the war, Coke attended college at Swarthmore, where he developed an interest in politics and government. While visiting Smith College one weekend, he met Harris Wofford — later a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania — who had founded the Student World Federalists, an organization promoting a union of democracies. Inspired by Wofford’s idealism, Coke joined the organization and eventually served as its president. He then took a year off from college and toured the country, speaking on behalf of the organization at colleges, universities as well as on the radio.

It was at a World Federalist meeting on the Yale campus that Coke met and fell in love with Pamela Davis, who was a student at Bryn Mawr College. They later married on Sept. 2, 1950. Coke then continued his education, receiving a Master’s degree from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs.

Coke began his long career in the U.S. government in 1951 spending several years on Capitol Hill working for Sen. Howard Alexander Smith of New Jersey, Sen. Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, and U.S. Rep. Peter Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. He also spent two years as an executive assistant to then Vice-President Richard Nixon, and in several positions at the U.S. Department of State, including as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations, from 1969 to 1973. Coke retired from government in 1980.

Known for his kindness and generosity, his nieces and nephews nominated him as their favorite uncle. He adored his wife and three children and on many a morning, with Beethoven on the hi-fi, he could be found bringing coffee to his wife, and cooking breakfast for their children.

In later years, after Pam developed dementia, they moved to the Medford Leas Retirement Community, in Medford, NJ. There, Coke cared for her with extraordinary devotion, rarely leaving her side.

Coke is survived by his three children, Christine Prentice, Stephen Prentice, and Selden Prentice; grandchildren Shawneah Mondzelewski, Thatcher Woodley, Thomas Woodley, Peter Woodley, Claire Hobby, Kate Blackstone and Hilary Blackstone; and great-grandchildren Jackson Mondzelewski, Colgate Woodley, Oliver Woodley, and Evie Hobby.

Memorial donations in Colgate Prentice’s name can be made to the Westport Land Conservation Trust. Website: Mailing address: PO Box 3975, 830 Drift Road, Westport, MA 02790.