"We are so proud that he touched the soul with his voice and was a quiet leader in the arts,” Timolin Cole tells PEOPLE

By Linda Marx
March 15, 2019 05:45 PM
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Geffen Playhouse's Opening Night of the West Coast Premiere of Lights Out: Nat "King" Cole, Los Angeles, USA - 12 Jan 2019
Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

With the death of their sister Natalie Cole on New Year’s Eve 2015, twins Timolin and Casey Cole, 57, have inherited the responsibility of carrying on the legacy of their father Nat King Cole, the legendary jazz singer and pianist.

“We assume the authority of honoring and preserving our father and the rest of the Cole family legacy,” Timolin told PEOPLE Feb. 17 at The Breakers Palm Beach during a Nat King Cole Generation Hope event to celebrate what would have been their father’s 100th birthday on March 17.

“We know mom and dad and our siblings are cheering us on. They are the angels guiding and encouraging us to continue expanding access to quality music by helping school children with the greatest need and fewest resources.”

Nat’s brother Freddy Cole, 87, who was nominated for a Grammy Award earlier this year for best jazz vocal album, entertained guests with his lyrical storytelling and his musical trio.

Nat, who died in 1965 of lung cancer at age 45, was one of the most popular and talented recording and concert artists in American history. In honor of the landmark birthday, two new collections of his music were released on Friday, March 15 — Ultimate Nat King Cole and the limited edition International Nat King Cole.

Timolin and Casey, who live in Boca Raton, Florida, spread their father’s legacy by funding musical instrument instruction, music composition and songwriting as well as technical expertise in the recording arts. Donations to Generation Hope have exceeded $1.5 million and have helped more than 34,000 children around the country.

“Our dad was a kind and generous man who people called the ‘gentle giant,'” says Timolin of the superstar, who turned out nearly 700 hits for Capitol Records.

“We are so proud that he touched the soul with his voice and was a quiet leader in the arts. He always said, ‘I may be able to bring harmony among people with my music.’ We want to continue that dream in a time when we really need it.”

The twins just returned from Los Angeles where Lights Out: Nat King Cole, an avant-garde, bio-musical set during the filming of the final television episode of The Nat King Cole Show, is being performed at The Geffen Playhouse Theater.

The musical, starring Dulé Hill and cowritten by Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor, illustrates the racism that took place off camera and the turmoil that Cole endured as the first African-American host of a TV variety show.

“Casey and I were mesmerized watching Lights Out,” says Timolin. “It captures the essence of our dad, a side that most people have not seen before. They will observe the inner conflict and anguish that he suffered in the culture of that time.”

The twins know that their family’s talents need to be shared with new generations so they can enjoy the music that millions have loved and respected over the years.

“The music, spirit and the way our father and Natalie made people feel when they listened to them sing will be alive forever,” Casey tells PEOPLE. “Our family history is one of musical excellence and charitable giving. We are making sure that legacy lives on.”