A Celebration of a Life That Touched So Many
On July 18, Peter completed his final expedition and is now with God. For all who knew this gentle giant of a man, his goodness and gentle nature, let’s tell each other of the joy and admiration we had for his life and how he touched all of us.
Peter began his life in Phoenix City, Alabama. At a young age, he came to Florida with his family, where his life evolved in so many ways that one wonders how he found the time to do all that he did and still make a difference in so many lives.
With his younger brother Paul in tow, they worked and played hard. Working hard meant being there for their mother, Brownie, in the family grocery store. Playing hard was a day at the beach, making sure each other did not get tossed about in the undertow.
Before graduating from the University of Miami in 1967, Peter was already serving his country in the Florida National Guard. He completed Officer Candidate School at Camp Blanding in 1962. He finished his Airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1963.
He was already a second lieutenant in October 1964 when he completed the Jumpmaster Course in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Having survived an emergency parachute jump from an ill-fated C-119, along with the pilot and all 29 of his fellow National Guardsmen, on July 16, 1966, he was awarded membership in the Caterpillar Club. He was also awarded the Special Forces Flash in 1971 and honorably discharged as a Major from the Army in 1978.
In his private life, he was always there for his son, Peter. They enjoyed doing scouting activities together, from hiking in the mountains of Camp Daniel Boone, North Carolina, to the ultimate scouting experience in Philmont, New Mexico. They skied the mountains of Colorado, and constantly challenged each other in their workout routines.
Peter was Jill’s loving husband for over 27 years, having married in 1989. They enjoyed all the activities in the salty sea air of Fort Lauderdale.
When Jill’s career took them to Denver in 1998, Peter packed his bags without hesitation. They hiked and skied the glorious mountains of Colorado. In 2005, they purchased a cabin in St. Elmo, an historic mining town nestled in the mountains more than 10,600 feet above sea level. There, they worked together restoring a cabin for their family and friends to enjoy then and into the future. They came back to Florida in 2016, settling in Palm Coast, Florida.
Peter received his solo pilot certificate in 1968. As a private pilot, he landed and took off from the highest elevation airport in the United States, Leadville, Colorado.
It brought both Peter and Jill great joy when they were asked to sponsor a cadet, Mark J. Watkins, who was enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Academy. A mutual lifetime of love and respect continues to grow to this day.
The “Three Amigos” hiked the Grand Canyon, forged the jungles of Belize, braved the desolate high altitudes of the Colorado Rockies, went scuba diving in the waters in the Bahamas, jet skied across the ribbons of waterways that weave through Florida, and rode like “Muchachos” on BMW motor bikes throughout the West.
Uncle Peter, UP as he was affectionately known to his nieces, was a kind and compassionate man. His nieces — Kelley, Brandi, Amy and Elise — and their children gave him great joy and pride, putting a twinkle in his eye and laughter in his heart.
Peter is predeceased by his son, Peter. He is survived by his wife, Jill, and brother, Paul. He is survived by Mark and Donna Smithberger, Beth and Glen Schumacher, nieces Kelley and Aeron Lane, Brandi and Mike Christl, Amy Schumacher, and Elise and Jeremey Hecht. His grand nephews and nieces are Caleb, Luke, Jacob, MaKenzie, Alycen, Noah and Addison.
Peter’s spirit will live on in those he loved. Find yourself blessed for having known his patience, humbleness and positive attitude. His challenge to you is to put the needs of others before your own:
“Show me how to find the courage to never be a coward in any situation that comes into my life.”
In lieu of flowers, donations made in honor of Peter Cooke may be sent to either one of these community organizations:
Historic St Elmo and Chalk Creek Canyon Inc.
P.O. Box 282
Nathrop, CO 81236
4200 NW 90th Blvd.
Gainesville, FL 32606