Greater Austin Council Honored 100 Year Old Central Texas Navy Veteran (100 years navy wave honored)

TEMPLE (September 29, 2012)

Family and friends gathered at Wellington Place Nursing Home in Temple Saturday to celebrate the 100th birthday of Navy veteran Bonnie Cooke. Cooke was born September 26, 1912 in Schwertner Texas. She graduated from Bartlett High School in 1929. Her husband served in the Navy and was killed at the Battle of Guadalcanal on the U.S.S. Juneau. In 1943, inspired by her husband's service, she enlisted in the Navy through the Women Accepted for Volunteer Enlistment (WAVE) program. A year later, she became a 1st Class Petty Officer and served as a pharmacist mate. After an honorable discharge in 1946, Cooke worked for John B. Stetson, of Stetson hats, until her retirement in 1970. She later moved to Temple. "We're celebrating an extraordinary life of a woman who's lived for 100 years and seen the depressions, wars and famines," said Lt. Timothy Gaugier of the Division II San Antonio Recruiting District. "She's seen everything good and bad that this nation's had to offer the last 100 years, and she's here to tell us about it."

When asked if she felt special today, Cooke responded, "Yes, look at all these people." Cooke said it's unbelievable that so many people showed up to her celebration. She laughed and added, "Where did all these people come from?" "We're celebrating the fact that she's willing to serve her country at a time when she could have gone into mourning and instead she did a whole lot," her niece Martha Henry said. Lt. Tim Gautier and Thomas C. Smith, III, FACHE, Director of the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, honored Cooke with flowers and a special plaque.

The Temple Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee provided the cake for the celebration. "She helped us get to where we are today as a nation. Her and her generation made great sacrifices to allow my parents, your parents, her children and my children have a better life than what they had," Lt. Gautier said.

The Greater Austin Council was represented by members Ron and Linda Hill. Ron's reports, "My wife Linda & I went up to Temple this afternoon armed with our umbrellas and Navy League pins to attend the 100th birthday of Bonnie Clarke -- a Navy vet from 1944-46 -- she joined the WAVES a few months after her husband, Charlie Clarke, EM1, was killed in the sinking of the USS Juneau during the Guadalcanal campaign (700 others also went down with the Juneau including the 5 Sullivan brothers). Ms. Cooke is qQuite a lady -- she was wearing the jacket she wore as a Pharmacist Mate 1st Class stationed in the San Diego area and her wartime "cruise book" was featured among other mementos.. It was an honor for us to be there representing Navy League -- other vet groups were also in attendance as well as active duty personnel shown in the picture as featured in the Temple area media.