Brent McNulty Cook
1948 - September 29, 2021
On Sept. 29, 2021, Brent McNulty Cook died from complications of Parkinson's disease at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital with family by his side. He was 72 years old.
Brent was born in 1948 in Chillicothe, Ohio (the first capitol of Ohio, he liked to emphasize, and where the Scioto River had "catfish as big as submarines"). He was the second son born to Barton C. Cook of Nipgen, Ohio, and Mary Elizabeth Cook (nee McNulty) of Sinking Springs, Ohio. He attended area schools and played team sports most of his life there including football, basketball, baseball and track and field. He was very proud of his pole vault record. Upon graduating from Chillicothe High School, he attended the University of Cincinnati on a football scholarship. When he graduated in 1971 he immediately joined the United States Army and graduated from officers candidate school in 1973. Afterward, he completed airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia. His first duty assignment was Fort Dix, New Jersey. He attained the rank of major during his career.
Brent is preceded in death by his parents and older brother, Greg. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Jolanda Cook; daughter, Heather,; grandson, Cooper Cook-Taylor; ex-son-in-law, Jeffrey Taylor; and granddaughters, Emme and Mazzy. Survivors also include his younger brother, Chris Cook of Columbus, Ohio; sister, Robin Cook-Moore of Columbus, Ohio, her husband Don and their three children, Tristan, Chance and Isabella.
Brent met his wife, Jolanda, at the Fort Dix, New Jersey, Officers Club in 1975. He saw a young woman dining with friends. When it came time for her to leave and she was almost out of the building, he ran after her, put his arm around her waist and said, "Please don't leave." Two years later they were married by the mayor of Mount Holly, New Jersey. And all the days of their marriage Jolanda pinched herself because she could not believe her good fortune in having this beautiful man in her life.
Brent had volunteered for an assignment to Alaska because he had heard Alaska was the "best kept secret in the Army." Jolanda thought surely someone is pulling his leg. Nevertheless, they arrived at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, on April 1, 1978 ("how fitting" Jolanda thought). Brent loved being in the military, the patriotism, the traditions and rituals, the camaraderie, the sense of belonging and purpose, the opportunities. The only thing that could make this any more perfect was to have a child. In 1980 the couple had a daughter, Heather. Jolanda remembered her first trip to Brent's hometown, the continuity, the security, the sense of identity that comes with being attached to a place. Having been an Army brat herself, she questioned if this would be good for their daughter. Against his better judgment, out of love for his wife and child, he resigned his commission. It was a decision he always regretted, and it weighed on him.
But he found similar camaraderie and sense of purpose working security for the pipeline. He enjoyed his co-workers immensely and counted them as friends. He spent 30 years on the job, working mostly out of the Fairbanks office. It was these friends who helped Brent build his "forever" home. It was a timber frame and every beam, girt and brace was touched with caring and good intention. Brent and Jolanda dragged their bed into the unfinished house and would lie there, amazed at the accomplishment and they would pinch themselves, because they could not believe their good fortune.
Brent lost his much loved and revered brother, Greg, in 2012. It was an emotional blow and Brent grieved the rest of his life. Brent retired from Doyon Universal Services in 2014. His best childhood friend, "Woody" Woodward, died the same year, another major loss. Brent was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2017 and he underwent a number of unrelated surgeries and procedures. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Each new medical challenge seemed to make Brent withdraw further into himself. Except in the evenings when Brent and Jolanda shared a glass of wine. Then the young lieutenant would appear again in Brent's smile and eyes.
When Brent experienced the most recent complication of Parkinson's and was admitted to the hospital, it was his Jolanda's turn to say, "Please don't leave." But he was weary and tired of being in pain. She was allowed to lie next to him and hold his hand as she recounted their love story for him. And then he left.
No memorial service is immediately planned. A celebration of life will take place in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Chillicothe, Ohio, in the spring of 2022. The family will notify loved ones and friends when a service is scheduled. He will be laid to rest with his parents and brother in Twin Township, Ohio.
Arrangements are entrusted to Fairbanks Funeral Home.
Published by Daily News-Miner on Nov. 6, 2021.