Creative Leadership

Bill “Dusty” Cooke, 1922-2010

I wanted to thank everyone for all the thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes following my dad’s passing Saturday in North Carolina.  As many of our friends knew, he’d been ill for a long time.  In fact, the running joke in our family is that “Cooke’s don’t die.”  My grandmother – his mom – was 98 years old when she died, and in spite of multiple heart attacks, two open heart surgeries, a hip replacement and two strokes, he refused to give up.  Apparently his training as a Golden Gloves boxing champion, a Marine during WWII, and a career as a pastor taught him a lot about fighting.  But we did get the call that he was really
declining a few days ago, and the family all came in.  My mom was with him, although she’s far into Alzheimer’s, and how much she understood, we don’t know.

Probably the most interesting thing about his death was his grandchildren.  My sister Beth Carpenter’s children, Caroline and Bennett live nearby, so they were already with him.  Then, our youngest daughter Bailey drove in from Nashville, and dad kept hanging on.  In fact, everyone at the rest home was shocked that he was still with us.  Finally, our oldest daughter Kelsey and her husband Chris Guerra drove all night through the East Coast blizzard from New York and arrived early Saturday morning.  Within 10 minutes after Kelsey and Chris arrived and spent some time at his bedside, he finally closed his eyes and passed.  Apparently, he held on long enough to see all the grandkids.

Dad had a remarkably interesting life, and for those who might be interested, here’s the obituary that will appear in The Charlotte Observer on Monday.  The funeral will be held at 10am Tuesday at McEwen Funeral Home in Pineville, North Carolina.

Obituary:  Bill “Dusty” Cooke,  Ph.D.

Dr. Bill “Dusty” Cooke, formerly of Kannapolis, North Carolina passed away February 6th, 2010 in Cramerton, North Carolina.  A long time and beloved pastor in the Charlotte area, he was also a local athlete, college professor, safety educator, and World War II hero.  A high school football star at the old J.W. Canon High School where he was an All-Conference end, he was also a Golden Glove Boxing Champion, winning the lightweight title at the Carolinas-Virginia Golden Glove Tournament held in Raleigh in 1939, and later represented the Marines, becoming their Lightweight Champion.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940, and was immediately pulled into World War II, where he was part of the legendary First Marine Division at Guadalcanal in 1942.  He fought with such greats as Chesty Puller, John Smith, and Greg “Pappy” Boyington (Baa Baa Black Sheep), and while in the Marines, his unit was awarded the Presidential Citation and the Navy Citation.  He was wounded in action during a Japanese bombardment in October of 1942.  An avid historian, his personal library includes a remarkable collection on the history of the Marine Corps.

He was married to the love of his life, Thelma Blackwelder on July 24th 1944 and lived most of his life in Charlotte.  He was educated at Wake Forest University, Catawba College, Johnson C. Smith University, Holmes Theological Seminary, UNCC, Oxford Graduate School, and Oral Roberts University.  He obtained Master of Education and Divinity degrees, a Ph.D. in Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry degree.  He was pastor of several churches in the Charlotte area and had a significant spiritual impact in the Carolinas throughout his pastoral and academic career.  He also was pastor of three churches in Oklahoma during the 1980’s.

Other family members who are deceased include parents Pink and Lois Cooke, brother Jim, and sister Norma.  He is survived by his wife Thelma, a son, Phil Cooke of Burbank, California, and a daughter Beth Carpenter in Crammerton, North Carolina.  His four grandchildren are Bennett and Caroline Carpenter,  and Kelsey and Bailey Cooke.   Services will be held at 10am Tuesday the McEwen Funeral Chapel in Pineville, North Carolina.  The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Disabled American Veterans Association.

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  1. Luckily, those loved ones that we lose are never truly gone. Instead they live on through the lives of those that they touched while here or earth. His legacy lives on in you, Phil. And I’m sure he’s very proud 🙂

  2. Phil,

    My condolences and prayers are with you and your family.  Thank you for sharing that amazing story.

    What a LEGACY. Again, thank you for sharing. May God’s grace & confort be with you all as you remember all the amazing times you had together.

    — Suzanne

  3. Phil,

    My prayers are with you and your family. Judging from the obituary, your father was a great man. Also, I feel like I knew him – in part – because I’ve been blessed to know you. God bless.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers
    and Speedsuit Powers

  4. I can never remember the five stages of grief. You know, denial, anger…then I’m lost. But I found that the seven dwarfs work well. The shock from the news made me Dopey. When the reality set in, I became Grumpy. Then I had to meet all these people at the funeral. When you’re not in the mood to meet new people, you become Bashful. Grieving messes with your immune system, and I got Sneezy. Got help from Doc. He gave me something that made me Sleepy. But you’re supposed to be Happy because your loved ones are in a better place.

  5. Sending a prayer for you and yours right now. I had just sat down for a few minutes to check email and had some music playing in the background. Having finished mail the song “Going Home” came on as I decided to check your blog. I thought it appropriate and send you the lyrics. The song was followed by “Be Still My Soul” – I trust this may be a comfort to you- a small token of God’s love. My condolences- Robert

    Going home, going home,
    I’m just going home.
    Quiet-like, slip away-
    I’ll be going home.
    It’s not far, just close by;
    Jesus is the Door;
    Work all done, laid aside,
    Fear and grief no more.
    Friends are there, waiting now.
    He is waiting, too.
    See His smile! See His hand!
    He will lead me through.

    Morning Star lights the way;
    Restless dream all done;
    Shadows gone, break of day,
    Life has just begun.
    Every tear wiped away,
    Pain and sickness gone;
    Wide awake there with Him!
    Peace goes on and on!
    Going home, going home,
    I’ll be going home.
    See the Light! See the Sun!
    I’m just going home.

  6. Phil, my sympathies to you and your family for your loss. I’m glad to hear that your dad was a fighter. I think the world would be better if all of us were a little more like him in that regard.

  7. Phil,

    So sorry for your loss. My father passed in June ’09, taking his told and re-told WWII stories with him. Fortunately, I taped much of his life story and encourage others to do the same with their aging parents. Again, my sympathies. Sounds like Dusty was my kind of guy.

  8. What a great heritage to keep you grounded and an inspiration to keep you soaring!

    My prayers are with you amd your family.

  9. Sounds like an awesome man. So sorry for your loss but I know God will comfort and sustain each of you in the upcoming days, months and years.

  10. Phil,
    So sorry to hear about your dad’s passing. I’m sure it was a great comfort to have everyone at his bedside.
    I don’t know if you remember but I had the privilege of worshiping at your dad’s church as a teenager. He had a big impact on my life as I’m sure he touched many others.

    God bless you and your family,

  11. Phil,
    Our condolences and prayers for you and your family. I only got to meet your father a couple of times at a school event. He and my Dad talked quite a bit about WWII and my Dad being a pilot. He encouraged me with my athletics and educational pursuits. I remember him joking with me a lot about your antics in HS.

    Take care, enjoy the quiet moments when his memories pop up, I know that is a lesson I have learned since we lost my Dad in 1992.

    Blessings Phil,

  12. So sorry for your loss Phil. Thank you for posting a touching obituary for a soldier of the faith, a man who understood both the battles and the victories, family, and faith.

  13. I am also very sorry, but such is life and there’s nothing we can change, the main thing that the memory of your father lives in your hearts.

  14. Hey Phil

    you will not remember me, but I was at ORU 73-77.

    just a quick note to say I am sorry to hear about your father.

    we lost my father nearly two years ago .. and he was the same exact age as yours.

    and there is not a day that goes by that I do not miss him.

    will be sending up prayers for your entire family.

    thanks for your emails.
    /dave in denver

  15. Phil: Jack and I just learned of your father’s passing. We send our prayers and condolences. Our prayers are with your mother, also.

    Our love to you and Kathleen and family.

    Jack and Dolores Swearingen

  16. Phil–the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! The quest for knowledge and that fighting spirit lives on in you! What a wonderful legacy. Loved hearing how your daughters got there in time…happy tears.  And as these men that fought the good fight of faith rest the baton in our hands…let us too be as faithful to live without cowardice in this age declaring what is good, True and right. You are a blessed man.

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