Ethel “Cookie” Cooke, 1923—1995

Ethel "Cookie" Cooke
Ethel “Cookie” Cooke in the Noel House kitchen

Ethel Cooke (known by most of her friends as “Cookie” or “Dr Cookie”) died early in the morning of April 17, 1995 at Noel House, 2301 Second Avenue, Seattle. She had been ill with a congestive heart and pneumonia, and chose not to receive medical care when it was offered the night she died, fulfilling her wish to die at “home” and not in the hospital.

Ethel has seven surviving sisters and four deceased brothers. One of her sisters lives in Seattle. Her name is Emma Calhoun. The other six sisters live in Mississippi, where Ethel was from. She was born in Jackson, MS, and first moved to Seattle in 1958. She was married to a Mr Calhoun, by whom she had two sons, Dennis and John. Ethel married a second time, later in her life. Her second husband was a Mr Cooke. Ethel moved back to Mississippi in 1981 and returned to Seattle in 1988. She became homeless in 1990; she first came to Noel House on 4/17/91, exactly four years before she died.

Ethel, like her sister Emma, worked most of her life as an LPN. She used to keep elderly people company at Group Health Hospital. Ethel was fond of the medical profession and she enjoyed sharing her wisdom in matters of medicine (hence the title, “Dr Cookie”).

Ethel was a very religious woman and was brought up in the Baptist Church. She had a beautiful singing voice and could often be heard humming “Jesus is Good, Good, Good,” or “Take Your Burden to the Lord and Leave It There.” Ethel will be remembered for her stubbornness, her warm sense of humor, and her flashy and glamorous sense of style. She was truly one of a kind, and will be dearly missed.

Ethel’s ashes are at the Southwest Mortuary on Rainier Avenue South. There was a memorial service for her on Saturday, April 22, at the Church of Mary Magdalene.

–obituary by Julie Fisher
Originally published in Real Change in May 1995

Poem by Marion Sue Fischer dedicated to Ethel (1995):

African Queen

WE brought her over
	from Africa
in the (intolerable)
	holds of slave ships
     in her jazzy,
     and colorful
Rolling her
	elegant Luis Vuitton
	behind her,
	of Seattle,
Mumbling Royal
     and blessings,
to ME
Her friend
(…AND, perhaps,
to her GOD…)
her Mind
Departs the Amarikan construct
	ABUSED her,
Coming through,
Beautiful and strong,
With the heady heat
Of Another Land
	I tried being
Her Slave, for a time
(I felt I owed it to her …)
Her Imperial Grandness
	Preceding me,
As I trailed her suitcase
Her arm linked
in mine,
for Support
	(She tires easily, now
	in her 70’s…)
If there appeared
Someone she knew,
She carried
Her own luggage,
Unlinked her arm…

Her Beauty matched
by her Dignity…

–Marion Sue Fischer

Featured Leaf April 2014

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