Obituary for Barbara Cooke
Barbara Bruno Cooke, 83, died April 15 at Loretto Health and Rehabilitation in Syracuse. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and died peacefully in her sleep, with her husband of 60 years by her side.
Barbara was born in Massachusetts, the eldest of five siblings. Her father, James Bruno, was the eldest child of immigrants from Sicily, and her mother, Eva Ambrose, the eldest daughter of immigrants from Lithuania. “Jim” Bruno left school after the eighth grade to support his parents and 12 siblings. Beginning as an apprentice butcher, he came to own several supermarkets and put all his children (and a number of his sisters) through private school and college. Jim and Eva moved to Connecticut, first to Waterbury, where Barbara grew up, and then to Cheshire.
Barbara studied philosophy at Connecticut College in New London. On graduation in 1955, she took a position as a researcher in an architecture firm in New York City. But in the summer of 1956 she met Goodwin “Goody” Cooke, who had finished a tour as a Marine Corps Officer in Okinawa, Japan, and was joining the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer. Despite objections from their parents-hers were Roman Catholic, his were New England Episcopalian-they were married in January, 1957 and left in April for the U.S. embassy in Karachi, then the capital of Pakistan.
They both loved the Foreign Service, although their early years were marked by the loss of their first child, Cassandra, who died at the age of four. The role of Foreign Service Spouse can be demanding, but it does have its rewards. Meeting new people in new cultures was endlessly exciting, and Barbara was very good at it. Her vivacity and charm won her friends wherever they were posted, from Karachi to Belgrade, Yugoslavia; to Rome, Brussels, Kingston (Ontario) and Ottawa; to Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, and Bangui in the Central African Empire, to which Goody was named Ambassador. (It reverted to a Republic while they were there.)
Throughout their travels, Barbara enthusiastically pursued her life-long love of art and architecture, and she developed new interests along the way-volunteering in a Pakistani refugee camp; taking up African dance under the instruction of pioneering Ivoirian choreographer Marie Rose Guiraud; diving into the literature and poetry of the African Négritude movement; and always up for a game of tennis, which she played with energy and an otherwise well concealed competitive streak. In 1980, the couple moved to Syracuse, where Goody was posted as “Diplomat in Residence” at Syracuse University. They settled in Syracuse when Goody joined the university first as Vice President for International Affairs and then as professor of practice in the Maxwell School.
Barbara flourished at Syracuse, volunteering at Crouse Hospital, and the Everson Museum, teaching English to International Students at the university and in the City of Syracuse jobs program, participating in the Social Art Club and the Arts and Crafts Society, climbing in the Adirondacks, enjoying opera at Glimmerglass, learning German, and running her first 5K race at the age of 70 (she won her age group). She and Goody continued to travel, with holidays spent in China, Egypt, Finland, Tanzania, and Russia, and together spent a year in France with the SU program in Strasbourg. Barbara had a knack for getting the most out of whatever she did, connecting with people from all walks of life, and taking great joy in her grandchildren, Wilder and Calista.
She was a beautiful and vivacious woman, a gracious and accomplished hostess, a loving parent and grandparent, and a warm, caring friend to countless relatives and acquaintances. Barbara is survived by her husband, Goodwin; her daughter, Jennifer in Washington, D.C.; her son, Alexander; and two grandchildren in Tucson, Arizona; her sister, Arlene Regensburger; and brothers, James, Richard, and Scott Bruno.
There will be no calling hours. A memorial service will be announced.