David Lea Cook

David Lea Cook

Died September 7, 2001

In our class book and directory for our 35th reunion in 2000, David reported his residence in Passaic, NJ as the same address to which he had planned to return after completing his Yale studies.

David prepared for Yale at Passaic High School in Passaic, NJ, resided in Morse and majored in Anthropology. He was also a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps midshipman and served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy following graduation. Always the contrarian, he sailed in the steel navy on a wooden minesweeper, USS Dominant (MSO 431) in the Mediterranean. He ultimately decided against a naval career and left his country’s service a full Lieutenant. In 1967 David went on to study more anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania but did not complete a degree there.

Returning to the family home in Passaic, he worked for part-time for Cobehn Corp., in Fairfield, NJ, a maker of precision cleaning equipment and ultrapure solvents needed by the critical industrial cleaning sector, until his retirement in 1985.

While at Cobehn, he painted watercolor seascapes and maritime scenes based on his time in the Navy and wrote poetry in his spare time. Once retired, David took up cooking, constantly testing (and tasting) recipes from the New York Times. He also became interested in gardening, cultivating roses outdoors and orchids inside. A prolific reader with great intellectual curiosity, David was known to have memorized Shakespearean plays for the fun of it.

David never married but was a devoted uncle to his niece and nephew, teaching his niece both to cook and to drive.

David died of metastasized liver cancer on September 7, 2001, survived by a younger brother, Thomas, his wife, and their children.

C. Roger Davis remembers: Who knows what Ernest M. (Tides) Thompson, Assoc. Dean of Freshmen, was thinking when he paired David Lea Cook and me as roommates in 1085 Bingham? Dale Griffee and Ray Mag, also long deceased, were there too, in the other bedroom, but it seemed ordained that Dave and I would be together: after all, we had the same birthday! He would often kid me that we were changelings – kind of funny if you think how different we were.

I admit I somewhat idolized him, and we agreed this was probably not good for either of us, but this relationship continued anyway, to a degree, for many years. He did urge me not to emulate his smoking, and I didn’t.

I remember our trips to the Yankee Doodle and thence by bus to Lighthouse Point for escape. I remember trips (with Dale Griffee) to Dave’s Passaic home for Thanksgiving. I remember trips with Griffee, John Morton, and him to MMA’s The Cloisters for adventure.
Dave was modest, formal but fun, skilled with watercolors, perceptive about people, and adept on the recorder (a small flute). I have over fifty of his poems and drawings, 1961-65, often about animals or the sea; two are to me. One (The High Places, Nov. 1964) he annotated, “Just to show you I’m still trying.”

He completed his service as a U.S. Navy officer and did some graduate work in cultural anthropology at U.Penn. Sadly toward the end of his life, upstairs in his parents’ house, he had become a “recluse” – his mother’s characterization – but it sounds like his word.

When I last spoke with him, on our birthdays, an Episcopal priest was visiting the household as his mother was dying, a most inopportune time to phone. It is lamentable that Dave found nowhere to share his considerable talents, wit, and wisdom. He called me “Stumpy Butterball.” I miss him a lot.

Howard Bernstein remembers: Among the few of us Anthropology majors, but lost touch after we graduated. A gentle soul.

Howard Morrison remembers: Suite mate David Cook was in the N.R.O.T.C. program and would let me read his Naval Institute Proceedings magazine. I was drafted within two weeks of graduating and wound up going to Navy Officer Candidate’s School in Newport.