Funeral home to celebrate founderPublished 9:37pm Thursday, September 5, 2013
T.E. Cooke-Overton Funeral Home will hold Founders’ Week Celebrations next week with an open house, dedication service and community cookout.
The funeral home, 405 Johnson Ave., also celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.
“Above all else, the event is to honor the legacy of Mr. and Mrs. Cooke,” said Renee Battle, the daughter of current owner Cora A. Overton.
Founder Thomas Everette Cooke, a native of Boydton, started working at the R.W. Baker Funeral Home at the age of 9. His job initially was caring for the horses and funeral coaches, but he eventually moved up to driving the hearse and later to planning funerals.
He moved on and established his own funeral home in 1923 on East Washington Street, in an area also known as The Fairgrounds. In 1957 he relocated the home to its current location.
He also embarked on a new business, Cooke Ambulance Service, which was the only medical transport in the city until the development of the Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad.
Cooke died in 1962, but his wife Lessie continued running the business until her death in 1968. It later was purchased by the late Bishop Levi Willis Sr., who changed the name to T.E. Cooke-Twilight Funeral Home. It was sold again in 1986 to his brother, Isaac O. Willis.
In May 1998, Overton purchased it and renamed it. Three months later, however, the building was destroyed by a fire. The home was rebuilt and the doors reopened in 2000.
Next week’s events will include the open house from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, a ribbon-cutting and dedication for the T.E. Cooke-Overton Garden at Carver Memorial Cemetery will take place at 10:30 a.m., and a community cookout will be held from 1 to 3 p.m.
“We would like to honor the name and legacy of Mr. and Mrs. Cooke,” said Battle, noting many people in the area still remember Cooke. “We are innovative, and we are passionate about what we do.”
Overton added, “Please come and enjoy with me a true blessing of God.”
For more information on the events, call 539-4861.