William David Cook, Sr. of Monticello, passed away on August 8, 2014 following a lengthy and courageous battle with prostate cancer.
Mr. Cook was born on August 27, 1936. He had a very humble upbringing as a child. During his formative years, he lived in two separate boys homes as a child in Mobile, Ala.: the Catholic Boys Home and the Wilmer Hall Children’s Home. At the age of 17, he joined the United States Air Force. He retired as a Master Sergeant on September 1, 1974.
During his 20-plus year career, Mr. Cook was stationed in Goose Bay, Labrador, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (twice), Biloxi, Mississippi, Hokkaido, Japan, Alcoy, Spain, Pickstown, South Dakota, King Salmon, Alaska, Orlando, Florida and Homestead, Florida. He had more than 5,000 flying hours while serving the United States and and retired as his “crew chief” in the EC-121 model Super Constellation Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
As a staff sergeant of the 966th AEW&C Squadron (Gold Digger Missions), he achieved an “Expert” Radar Supervisor status. The prime mission of the 966th was to monitor and track the arrival of U-2 aircraft that frequently flew photograph missions over Cuba. The Gold Digger missions are reminicent of the early barnstorming days of flying. These huge Super Constellations flew Gold Digger missions at or near, or lower than 50 feet in altitude creating large rooster tails on the Gulf off the Florida Keys from their prop wash.
In addition to his countless letters of appreciation and commendations from his immediate supervisors, Mr. Cook received two Air Force Commendation Medals for his meritorious service, as well as the highly coveted Air Medal for his meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight from November 8, 1969 to July 10, 1973.
After retiring from the Air Force, Mr. Cook moved his family to Monticello where he spent 20 years working for the Arkansas Forestry Commission where he earned the rank of Forest Ranger III.
During his time at the forestry commission, he volunteered to be part of the “search and recovery team” for artifacts for the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in February 2003 in East Texas. Even though he formally retired twice, he was a “workaholic” who never really retired. He went to Idaho to assist with fighting wildfires, worked for Doug Grimmett and Dan Estes in performing controlled burns, and he continued to help his sons on family land in Junction City. He spent a lot of quality time there with his family conducting controlled burns, planting trees, planting food plots, building deer stands and deer camps, hunting, and riding four-wheelers.
Mr. Cook was a devoted husband and father. The only thing he enjoyed more than his children was spending time with his wife, Carolyn, and camping with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Mr. and Mrs. Cook were married on August 14, 1958. They would have celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary on August 14, 2014. She was the love of his life.
Mr. Cook was preceded in death by his parents, Louie Cook and Flora Shilling-Cook; a brother, LB Cook; two sisters, Flossie Gillespie and Betty Crater; and a son, William “Billy” David Cook, Jr.
He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Cook; two sons, Jimmy and wife Shirley Cook of Camden and Louis and wife Karri Cook of Bossier City, La.; a brother, Julius Cook of Burlington, Vermont; four grandchildren, Anna Miller, Will Cook, Jennifer Cook, and Lauren Wiethaupt; and six great grandchildren, as well as brother and sisters in-laws, countless cousins, eight nephews, four nieces, friends and many other cherished loved ones.
Visitation will be held August 10, 2014 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Stephenson-Dearman Funeral Chapel. Funeral services will be held August 11 at 1 p.m. at the funeral home.
Mr. Cook will be buried with full military honors. His final resting place will be beside his son, Billy, at the Lone Sassafras Cemetery immediately following the funeral services.
Pallbearers will be Doug Grimmett, Jerry Smith, Doyle Rogers, Mickey Finley, Larry Fisackerly, and Roger Harris. Honorary Pallearers are Hugh Harris, Ted Burton, Nate Trauger, Robert Gillespie, Paul Gillespie, and Patrick Cook.
Memorials may be made to the cancer research foundation of the donor’s choice.