Cole had affairs throughout his marriages. By the time he developed lung cancer, he was estranged from his wife Maria and living with actress Gunilla Hutton, best known as the second Billie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction (1965–1966) and also notable as a regular cast member (Nurse Goodbody) on Hee Haw. But Cole was with Maria during his illness, and she stayed with him until his death. In an interview, Maria expressed no lingering resentment over his affairs. Instead, she emphasized his musical legacy and the class he exhibited in all other aspects of his life.