Josette Marquess, a retired Florida adoption official, has guided dozens of Cole babies through mostly fruitless state searches, and has become the state’s expert on Cole.
Marquess said working with Cole babies was “heartbreaking, because I knew there was really nothing I could do to help them.”
“In order to have a reunion, you really need a paper trail to follow and the particular nastiness of Dr. Cole was, she made sure there was no paper trail.”
Cole — known throughout the Coral Gables community as “Granny Doc” — operated an illegal abortion clinic and a legal adoption center from the mid-1930s to the late 1960s. Young pregnant girls who “got in trouble” would visit her clinic, and Cole convinced them to give their babies up for adoption, Marquess said.
Marquess said the doctor owned a number of apartment buildings within a three-block radius of her clinic. Both the pregnant girls and the adopting couples would stay there until the delivery.
Cole would assess each infertile couple individually, charging anywhere from $25 to $10,000 for a baby.
“All you needed was a wedding ring and $5,000 and you were good to go,” Marquess said. “She probably placed, at a minimum, 200 babies a year and she operated in Florida for more than 30 years — even with a little prison stint in there. That’s thousands of people who will never know their true identity.”
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