George Avery Cooke, age 84, passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and friends at 1:50 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27. He was the son of the late Dick and Delana Cooke of Linville. He was preceded in death by the love of his life, Wife: Martha Cooke; Brothers: Bob Cooke, Lee Cooke; Sisters: Lillian Ellis and Martha Kincaid; and Son-in-law: Jay Luttrell.
Left to celebrate his life and cherish his memory are his Daughters: Donna Luttrell and Laura Padgett (Donald); Granddaughter: Madison Hollar (Wesley); Grandson: Coston Padgett (Abby); Brother: David Cooke (Ramona); Sisters: Janice Payne, Mamie Luther (Tony), Linda Pittman, and Peggy Sherwood; countless family and friends – too many to name.
George was best known for his ability to grow all things – most importantly his family. He was a deeply devoted husband, father, brother and papaw. By his two daughters, he is most remembered for developing in them a strong work ethic. Spending time with him on the golf course, sleigh riding, and ice skating gave them a love for being outside and an appreciation for nature. He also loved spending time with his little brother, David, both on and off the golf course. They enjoyed hunting and fishing together. David was also his assistant superintendent for many years.
Those who crossed paths with George were likely to hear stories about his 55-year career at Linville Resorts, starting as a caddie in 1945 and ending as golf course superintendent in 2000. He loved to tell about his first caddying jobs with members, including one of his very favorites, the late Aggie Morton, who taught him the game of golf and how to dance. In the late 50s he served in the United States Army, beginning his training at Fort Jackson, SC, stopping in Fort Collins, Colo., and finishing his service at Fort Lewis, Wash. He took great pride in having stood honor guard for General William Westmoreland, with whom he later became good friends with when Westmoreland spent summers in Linville.
After returning home, he soon met the love of his life, Martha McGuire, and they spent 56 years building a wonderful life and family. Unless you knew him well you might not know that he loved to shine his shoes every day and he made his bed in military fashion — you could bounce a quarter off of it. In his early years he called square dances in Blowing Rock and was musically gifted — playing guitar, autoharp and dulcimer.
In his 32 years as golf course superintendent he was best known for running a tight ship with his crew — many of whom spent their entire career working alongside him. In addition to taking care of the golf course and surrounding resort, he loved taking care of the fish in the lake and creek, the parade and fireworks on July 4th, and keeping watch over the homes and families of the resort membership.
After retirement in 2000 he proudly took on the role of school drop-off and pick-up driver for his “grands,” Madison and Coston. School pick-ups always included a stop off at Christa’s in Pineola or the Linville Mart to grab favorite snacks including Yoo-Hoos they fondly named and still call “Papaw’s Coke.”
During his retirement years he also enjoyed looking after the Linville United Methodist Church, Wee Kirk Presbyterian Church and several of the homes of his lifelong member friends.
He spent time in his yard daily, which was visited frequently by family, friends and passers-by. He loved mowing, trimming, planting, blowing leaves and watering his miniature golf course, as his family fondly named it. When he wasn’t in his yard, he was spending time playing a weekly game of Rook with dear friends JC & Brenda Smith, taking Martha out to dinner and reading his Bible, Billy Graham devotions and daily newspaper.
He kept detailed, daily weather records for decades and could tell you at any given time the temperature, wind speed and rain amount. He didn’t particularly like snow but he loved to push snow off of neighbors’ driveways and church parking lots. He called it his “John Deere Ministry.” He also loved to decorate his entire yard with Christmas lights each year, especially to the delight of his neighbors, family and very special friend, Jake Costner, who made nearly daily trips to visit him.
George’s greatest joy came from helping others. He and Martha spent their lives dedicated to the Linville United Methodist Church through membership and service and most enjoyed the shoebox ministry, angel gift nursing home ministry and backpack ministry. He also enjoyed opening the church each Sunday morning, putting out the bulletins, greeting visitors and setting up communion. He was a charter member of the Linville Volunteer Fire Department and one of the first EMTs and volunteer firemen to serve there. He also served on the Board of Trustees and as chairman for Sloop Hospital for many years. While George was many things to many people, he was first and foremost a servant for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations in George Cooke’s memory to: Spirit Ride Therapeutic Riding Center, 7156 NC Hwy 194 S, Banner Elk, NC 28604.
George’s very special neighbor and friend, Jake Costner, benefits from the therapy provided by this program. “Spirit Ride provides children with special needs the opportunity to learn, grow, and strive to become their ideal selves through equine related therapeutic activities.” Spirit Ride is a nonprofit organization that serves the special needs communities of Western North Carolina. For more information, click to spiritridenc.org.
A celebration of life and love was held at the Alan Dickson Center Pavilion, across from Eseeola Lodge, in Linville at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1.