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):
WE brought her over from Africa in the (intolerable) holds of slave ships
She is STILL a QUEEN, in her jazzy, Regal and colorful Rags,
Rolling her elegant Luis Vuitton Suitcase behind her,
ON the streets of Seattle,
Mumbling Royal Curses jokes and blessings, to ME Her friend
(…AND, perhaps, to her GOD…)
Her Power UNDIMINISHED, her Mind Departs the Amarikan construct
Which has SO VICIOUSLY 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 behind
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