Obituary of Virginia B. Cook
Virginia Beatrice Cook was born on June 11, 1928 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, into a big family, as one of eight siblings (two of whom died young). Her father, Roy, an elementary school principal, was their breadwinner during the Depression, and her mom, Charlotte, ran a frugal household by doing a lot of sewing and canning. Virginia loved going out to the local farms with her dad when he bought ripe peaches or milk for buttermilk. There, she loved petting the horses. She also helped him grow veggies in his Victory Garden during the war.
Her parents had always impressed upon their children the value of an education, so after high school, Virginia enrolled at the University of Wisconsin as one of the very few women studying math and physics. She faced a lot of competition from vets returning from the war, eager to restart their lives. Assuming she was there for her “Mrs. Degree” (as many young women were at that time), some of her advisors did not take her seriously! However, in June, 1949, she graduated with her double degree after only three years of study. Meanwhile, she had met an Icelandic chemistry student named Bjarni Steingrimsson, and they married in the campus chapel on June 17, 1950. Shortly afterward, they moved to Chicago where she worked at the Institute of Nuclear Studies. Then, on August 27th, 1953, they sailed to Reykjavik, Iceland. Over the next nine years, she mastered the challenges of both language and culture, and they had three children.
She and the children moved to Los Angeles, California in 1962, where she met Dr. Gilbert Cook, an upper-atmosphere physicist at the Aerospace Corporation, where they both worked. They were married on December 11, 1964. After moving to their newly-purchased split-level home in El Segundo, CA (complete with a pool!), they welcomed a new baby four years later.
For the next 26 years, they faced many unexpected joys, as well as tough challenges. As they raised their kids, Virginia continued working fulltime, but she was also able to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning horses and riding them at nearby stables. She was also active for many years in the Toastmasters club at Aerospace, and she also founded an arts and crafts club where the ladies did creative quilting. The entire family faithfully attended St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in El Segundo, and Virginia often helped out at the pancake dinners, Christmas craft sales and vestry meetings.
After Gilbert died in the spring of 1990, Virginia moved up to the Pacific Northwest to start a new life there. She bought a home in Bothell, WA and became active at the Northshore Senior Center. There, she took classes in acrylic painting, fulfilling a long-held dream of becoming an artist. She created many attractive portraits, landscapes and studies of animals and flowers. She also attended a poetry and
creative writing class for many years, publishing poetry as well as articles for the NorthShore Navigator, Merrill Gardens Creeksider and Cristwood Park Courier.
Virginia was truly a Renaissance woman: a very intelligent and competent mathematician, and also a talented poet and artist. She loved animals, especially horses. She adored flowers, especially lilacs and hollyhocks. So many words describe her: gentle, diplomatic, generous… a faithful friend and good listener with a steady temperament graced by a good dose of humor and common sense. Like many of her generation, she lived through the many challenges in her life without complaint… “soldiering on” with a strong faith in God as her anchor.
She is survived by her sister: Elizabeth Larsen, brother: John Blackmun, children: Elin Cook and her husband, Enrico Yap; Esther Laura Hansen and her husband, Paul; Richard Cook and his wife, Judi; and Elli Gull and her husband, Jeff. Surviving grandchildren: Cheyenne Payne Cook and her husband, Alec Voyle; Leif-Eirik Hansen, and Richard Hansen.