50th Anniversary of the Commissioning of the USS Luce

Admiral Charles M. "Savvy" Cooke Jr

Admiral Charles M. "Savvy" Cooke Jr

Admiral Stephen Bleecker Luce

Admiral Stephen Bleecker Luce

50 years ago the US Navy honored one of it’s illustrious officers and visionaries by naming a ship after him. That visionary was Stephen Bleecker Luce, who rose up from the ranks from his first commission as Midshipman from President Van Buren to Admiral and founder of the Naval War College. And Admiral Luce was the younger brother of my great-great-great grandfather, John Bleecker Luce.  My great-grandfather, John Bleecker Cooke was named after him. Both my great-grandfather and his brother, Charles Maynard Cooke, Jr., joined the US Navy shortly after the 20th Century began. Charles Jr. earned the nickname Savvy during his stint at the US Naval Academy. (Unlike today, Savvy earned a degree first at university, before getting the appointment to the academy). JB and Savvy both served in the submarine corps before advancing to other roles. There will be more later on both of them.

Admiral Luce died in 1917 but Savvy had managed to meet his great-uncle a few times while in service with the Navy. JB did not have any meetings with Admiral Luce, as at the time JB would have been too low of rank and was also serving on the West Coast at the San Pedro Sub base, whilst Savvy was serving in New England.

Anyway in May of 1961, the US Navy decided to commission the 3rd ship to be named after Admiral Luce, a guided missile destroyer of the Farragut class, DDG-38, USS Luce. JB persuaded Savvy to attend and to make a report back to the rest of the family. The transcription of that report is contained in the link that follows:

Text of Savvy’s Report on the Commissioning of USS Luce

The USS Luce (DDG-38) served the US Navy as part of the 6th Fleet until she was decommissioned in 1991 and then scrapped. As of 2011 there is no USS Luce in service of the US Navy.

More on Caroline Johnson

Side A of the Flyttningsbevis


Side B of the Flyttningsbevis

Side B of the Flyttningsbevis

The earlier entry on Caroline sparked some interest and contact with a distant cousin, Sharon Risvold. Sharon is the great-granddaughter of Caroline Sofia Johnson Swearingen; while Caroline is my great-great-grandmother. She and I have been in contact and she has provided this next artifact. It is the paperwork allowing Caroline and Alfred, under the sponsorship of Pastor J A Johnnson, to emigrate from Sweden to North America. For those of you that can read Swedish, you will understand this far better than I can.

Once again my thanks to the Swearingen side of the family that kept this (and other) important family artifacts[

In Remembrance of POWs

This is a copy of a post card sent to to John B. Cooke, Jr. from the workers captured by the Japanese when they took Wake Island in December of 1941. John was the Airport/Station Manager for Pan American World Airways (PAA) on Wake Island at the time. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, they recalled the Pan Am Flying Clipper (which was just a few minutes into its flight) and evacuated as many American civilians as they could. The rest of the Pan Am staff were natives of either Guam or the Philippines and unfortunately were left behind with the small military contingent on the island. The Pan Am flight left for Midway and Hawaii under gunfire of the Japanese invasion force.

The original of this postcard and my grandfather’s written account of leaving Wake were donated by Bleecker (the our Beacher referenced in the postcard above) to the Andersonville National Prisoner of War Museum in Andersonville, GA.

Springtime in the early 1970’s

Cooke Family in springtime in NYWell, some images should be burned just because of the era that spawned them. And yet, I put this forth as a reminder that ‘fashion’ is fleeting – far faster than family fortunately. Pictured here from left to right are:  (standing) David, Jack, Patricia; (kneeling) Sierra and Alan. From the fancy dress I am guessing this was an Easter Sunday visitation with John & Isyl. John and Isyl were Bleecker’s parents (and thus Jack, David, Alan & Sierra’s grandparents) and Pat’s in-laws. The tree is a large magnolia tree in full bloom which was in the front yard of their house in Plandome Manor / Mannhasset on Long Island, NY. The year was probably 1973 or 1974.

In your own family’s archives, you know there are pictures like this. Don’t hide them, don’t get rid of them – they are a part of our shared history. Someday, some descendent will wonder how we lived during these times. Here is proof that some Cooke’s definitely lived in this decade.

My Relation to Aaron Cooke of 1585

Here is a quick and dirty genealogical tree showing how I am related to the ‘first’ Aaron Cooke back in Olde England. If you can tie in to this tree, particularly if your last name is Cooke, please let me know. Soon I hope to post the family tree as I have it in a common geneology format.

John Bleecker Cooke IV (aka Jack) is the 1st son / 1st child of

John Bleecker Cooke III (aka Bleecker) & Patricia Craig Payne Henry Cooke. Bleecker was the 1st son/1st child of

John Bleecker Cooke, Jr (aka John)  & Isyl Florence Johnson Cooke. John was the only son & child of

John Bleecker Cooke (aka JB) & Alvina Caroline Nagel Cooke. JB was the 1st son/1st child of

Charles Maynard Cooke & Sarah Bleecker Luce Cooke. Charles was the 2nd son/2nd child of

Henry Grout Cooke & Helen Margaret Smith Cooke. Henry was the 2nd son/3rd child of

Phineas Cooke & Sophia Grout Cooke. Phineas was the 4th son/6th child of

John Cooke & Elizabeth Smith Cooke. John was the 1st son/1st child of

Aaron Cooke & Anne Cooke (a cousin). Aaron was the 3rd son/4th child of

Lt. Westwood Cooke & Sarah Coleman Cooke. Westwood was the 2nd son/4th child of

Capt. Aaron Cooke & Sarah Westwood Cooke. Aaron was the 1st son/2nd child of

Major Aaron Cooke & Mary Ford Cooke. Aaron was the 1st son/2nd child of

Aaron Cooke & Elizabeth Charde Cooke, both of Bridport, Dorset, England. This Aaron Cooke was born in 1585 and died at the age of 30 in Dec. 1615.

Caroline Johnson

Front side

Back Side

This is the oldest photo image I have currently in the family archive. It is of my father’s mother’s father’s mother – my great-great grandmother, Caroline Johnson Swearingen. She emigrated with her son Alfred A. Johnson from Groesbeck, Sweden to Marshfield (now Coos Bay), Oregon in 1882-83. At some point after moving to Marshfield, Caroline married a Mr. Swearingin also from Sweden. The Johnson and Swearingin families must have gotten along fairly well if not good friends as later documents show them living on adjoining lots.

Of the many artifacts that Alfred kept of his mother’s were some of her correspondence with friends and relatives back in Sweden, her Swedish Bible, and other odds and ends. I would like to find someone who could read and translate the letters I do have to/from Caroline, so a fuller picture of the family life is had.

Since this image was done in Stockholm Sweden and given the youth of Caroline, I am assuming that the latest date it could be is 1880. The note on the back side of the card was placed there by myself, Jack Cooke. It is conceivable that it could be another Johnson sister who remained in Sweden.

The Cooke Family in 1913

Here is the Charles Maynard Cooke family as of 1913.

In the front row they are:  William (Bill) Forrester Cooke Sr., William Forrester Cooke Jr., Helen Margaret Cooke Johnson (Wilbur’s wife), Sarah Johnson aka Sally Howell, John Bleecker (JB) Cooke Sr., John Bleecker Cooke, Jr., & Alvina (Venie) Nagel Cooke (JB’s wife).

In the middle row are: Vera Cooke (Bill’s wife),  Charles Maynard Cooke Sr., Sarah Bleecker Luce Cooke (his wife), Wilbur Johnson, & Stephen Bland Cooke.

In the back row are: Leslie Temple Cooke (Savvy’s wife), Charles (Savvy) Maynard Cooke Jr., & Cornelia (Nee) Priscilla Cooke.

What Started it All…

This is the first page of Charles Maynard Cooke’s (CMC)  handwritten history, which he called The Cooke Family in America. As Charles was born in 1856 (and therefore lived thru the US Civil War), he was in his 80’s when he wrote this. I am unsure of the date wherein he started it but he finished it by the start of World War II.  I was in 5th or 6th grade when I received my own typewritten copy of this document and from that I did a report on the family history. I took all what it said at face value and just looked at the dates of when everyone was born, died, etc. I then put it away as a curiosity until i was in my 40’s. By then my father, who had become the keeper of the family artifacts, was working on integrating what his father had written and trying to piece together JB’s history from what was absolutely known. (JB, like is father CMC, was a storyteller; so the challenge was picking out the embellishments from facts.) At that point I became interested once again in the family history and reread the document paying closer attention. I also started asking the questions about family relationships and trying to figure those out.

When my father Bleecker, died in 2009 I became the keeper of the ‘treasures’. And my interest became deeper in trying to discern the actual facts of the family history. It was then I discovered that CMC’s manuscript has some factual errors as well as omissions, and things that need to be read in between the lines. I have also begun trying to track down other remnants of the family tree; firstly those descended from CMC and then working backwards up the tree. Thus the reason for this site. See there was a reason after all!

One of the prime factual errors of the document is on this first page; where CMC refers to Uncle George’s letter concerning Aaron’s brother George. While the military governor of Wexford, Ireland was a George Cooke (and one of the main reasons the Irish and English don’t get along), Aaron Cooke, born in Bridport, Dorset, England in 1614, had an older sister, Elizabeth, but no brothers at all. His father Aaron had died in 1615 thus making that relationship near impossible. It is possible that Professor George Cooke used the term brother to mean comrade, but that seems unlikely.

The whole document has been scanned and made into a pdf. Unfortunately it is currently a huge file since it is made of images of the manuscript. *sigh* I will transcribe it one day into a text format and make it available for download.

Coat of Arms & Crest

This is the scanned image of the family coat of arms that hung in the homes we lived in for as long as I can remember (which makes it a minimum of 50 years).  As described in heraldic terms it is: Or, a fesse between two lions passant gules and the crest, a wolf’s head argent ducally gorged gules. Below the coat of arms is the family motto in Latin: ‘Tutum Monstrat Iter”.

The Family Motto

Tutum Monstrat Iter – this is the motto on the family crest that has been part of our family for as long as I have known. Roughly translated from the Latin (and I would appreciate any Latin scholars for correction or clarification) it means: Show them the safe way/path/road. In this I suppose we are supposed to be pathfinders, scouts, or leaders, which seems odd for a family name which derives from the servant who prepared food for some noble. Maybe in the distant past we showed them the safe and delicious route to gastronomic bliss. Perhaps we were food tasters in addition, or perhaps some long ago ancestor smuggled a noble, or them selves, out of harms way.

Coming soon will be an image of the family crest with the motto, and perhaps a heraldic explanation of all the parts. Also coming will be the document that started all this – my great grandfather’s written family history.

See you soon – and share your stories or comments via the email addresses on the home page.