Legacy of ‘El’ Cook topic of Black History Program

- Posted on Feb 06, 2019 - 02:25 PM

Gloucester County paid tribute to the life and legacy of the late Eldridge N. Cook, Gloucester businessman and philanthropist, in a Black History Month program held on Saturday afternoon in the colonial courthouse.

The program was sponsored and planned by the Gloucester Historical Committee, with committee member Dr. Dorothy C. Cooke serving as mistress of ceremonies.

Cook, who died in 2014 at the age of 98, left a mark in the community that continues to this day. Affectionately known as “El,” Cook operated Cook’s Oyster Company in Bena for over 70 years. He was also a prominent civic leader in the county, serving for eight years on the Gloucester County Board of Social Services and nearly two decades on the Gloucester County Planning Commission. 

In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly approved a joint resolution commending him for his many contributions to the community. On Tuesday night, Gloucester Board of Supervisors declared next Thursday, Feb. 14 to be “Eldridge Cook Day” in the county.

Cook left over a million dollars to the Rappahannock Community College’s Educational Foundation. He earmarked his donation for the Dorothy Cosby Cooke Scholarship Fund which is administered by the RCC Educational Foundation. Dr. Cooke was a charter faculty member of RCC and retired as Director of Student Services after 20 years of service. She established the fund for students in need of financial aid to attend college.

He also established the Eldridge N. Cook Charitable Fund within the Gloucester Community Foundation with an endowment of over $1 million. Cook’s desire was to give a “hand up” to young people in Gloucester County.

Speakers at Saturday’s program included Margaret Nost, Regional Director for Philanthropic Services of the Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia, who spoke on behalf of the Gloucester Community Foundation; Betsy Henderson, executive director of Arts on Main, who spoke about grants from Cook’s fund that support an after-school arts program at all five Gloucester elementary schools; Botetourt art teacher Ellen Walter, who provided an exhibit of student artwork from that program; Michelle Benson, Chief Development Officer of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula, who presented a “Thank You Poster,” signed by members of the Gloucester Boys and Girls Club (who have received funding from the Cook fund); RCC student Abigail Wacio, who is a recipient of a scholarship from the RCC Educational Foundation/Dr. Dorothy Cosby Cooke Scholarship Fund; Sarah Pope, director of the RCC Educational Foundation, who spoke about the importance of Cook’s donation to the scholarship fund; and Linda Breaks of the Gloucester Historical Committee, who thanked all for attending.