Hastings resident The Rev. Dr. James P. Cooke (Lt. Col., USAR Chaplain), 88, left this
world from his daughter’s home on Saturday, September 5, 2020, surrounded by his
Graveside Services with military rites by Hastings Military Honor Guard will be 2 p.m.
Friday, September 11, at Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Hastings with Pastor
Rev. Greg Allen-Pickett officiating. A memorial service will be held in the spring at First
Presbyterian Church in Hastings, NE. Visitation will be 1-8 p.m. Thursday at the funeral
home. Memorials may be given to First Presbyterian Church of Hastings, American Heart
Association, or Hastings Area Habitat For Humanity. For the health and safety of others
face masks are required for those attending the visitation and funeral, your cooperation is
appreciated. Since there are material sharing restrictions, we ask that you bring your own
pen for signing the registration book or memorial envelopes. If you do not bring one, we
can do that for you. Private condolences may be sent to the family at www.lbvfh.com.
Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Home & Cremation Center is serving the family.
James was born in Brooklyn, NY, on December 28, 1931, and at an early age was placed
in the care of the Edwin Gould Foundation for Children; under that auspices, he was
remanded to the care of a series of foster parents in New York State. He graduated from
the W.C. Mepham Central High School in Bellmore, NY in 1949. After graduation, he
served three years as a radio intercept operator with the U.S. Army in Germany. Upon
discharge, he was employed briefly by the Decca Record Co. in New York City.
He enrolled in Park College, MO in 1953 and received a bachelor’s degree three years
later. He attended Harvard Divinity School 1956-1959, receiving the degree of Bachelor
of Theological Science. In 1977, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Ministry by the
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.
Rev. Cooke served as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserve, retiring in
1991 in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His assignments included Germany, Fort Leonard
Wood, Fort Carson, and Vietnam. He received a Bronze Star Medal with oak left cluster,
a Purple Heart Medal, a Meritorious Service Medal with oak left cluster, an Army
Commendation Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, an Army Reserve Achievement Medal, a
Vietnamese Gold Honor Medal, and Gallantry Cross with Palm. In addition, he received
several service and campaign medals, unit citations, and qualification badges. In 1997,
the Lincoln Chapter #15 of the Reserve Officers’ Association presented him with their
annual Minuteman Award.
He was well known in Lincoln, serving as President of the Lincoln-Lancaster County
Health Board, University Place Community Organization, Lincoln Urban Ministries,
Lincoln Fellowship of Churches and its successor the Lincoln Interfaith Council. For
many years he helped build houses with Habitat For Humanity, serving as President of
the affiliates in Lincoln and Hastings.
Rev. Cooke was a retired minister of the Presbyterian Church, USA, and served as Pastor
in Morrill (1959-1964), Sutherland, Keystone, and Lemoyne, NE (1972-1975), and
Fourth Presbyterian Church of Lincoln, NE (1975-1994) where he retired in 1994.
Rev. Cooke loved God, his family, and his country. He followed God’s call as a
Presbyterian minister and as an Army Chaplain, serving God’s children in many places
and circumstances. He had a beautiful baritone speaking and singing voice which he
shared while singing and preaching in the church and while spinning tales for family and
friends. He took great joy in books, music, building things with his hands, and traveling
to other places. Ireland held a special place in his heart. He never met a stranger. He
struck up conversations in train stations, gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants-even
when he didn’t speak the other person’s language.
He was a kind and generous man, with a great sense of humor and a rare depth of
compassion for others. He also had a deep love of knowledge which he passed on to all
his children and grandchildren. He was a loving father and grandfather, and a faithful
husband and friend for 65 years. He will be missed.
He married Mary Jeanne Hay while a student at Park College, on May 31, 1955. They
had five children; Paula Schaffner, James Cooke Jr., David Cooke, Rachel Florek, and
Rev. Cooke was preceded in death by his mother, Jeanne Vernon; sisters, Lillian Nola,
Dorothy Borgert, Jeannette Calabrese, and Mary Oles; and brothers, Charles, Howard,
and George Cooke.
Wife: Mary Jeanne Cooke – Hastings, NE
Sister: Ruth Wessels – Inglewood, CA
Children & Spouses: Paula Schaffner – Saline, MI
James Cooke Jr. & Kim Cooke – Myrtle Beach, SC
David & Linda Cooke – Hastings, NE
Rachel & Mike Florek – Hastings, NE
Ruth & Erik Nielsen – Hastings, NE
Grandchildren & Spouses: Rebecca Schaffner & Scott Brown – Watertown, MA
Virginia (Cooke) & Laura Brooke – Montpelier, VT
Philip Cooke – Shelton, CT
Captain David James Cooke – USAF, Geilenkirchen, Germany
Thomas Cooke – Houston, TX
Michael Florek & Al Cole – Roanoke, VA
Dan Florek – Hastings, NE
Sara (Florek) & Chris Buckley – Omaha, NE
Maggie Nielsen – Hastings, NE
Lucy Nielsen – Hastings, NE
Erika Nielsen – Hastings, NE
Andrew Straaberg Finfrock & Stacy Finfrock – Boston, MA
Nate Finfrock – Riverside, CA
Great-Granddaughter: Helen Finfrock