Luella Ellis Cook

Today is the 126th birthday of my Great Great Aunt Luella. She was the first family historian in the family and is responsible for much of what we know about our lineage as well as many of the stories you will see published on this website.

She was grew up in the Coffins Grove township of Delaware County, Iowa and was educated in the area one room schools in the early 1800s and early 1900s. She graduated with honors from high school in the old Central School in Manchester. She gave a speech at the graduation ceremony and was part of the high school debate team. She continued her education at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Iowa State Agricultural School in Ames, Iowa, finally earning her Masters Degree at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa in 1913. Her major areas of study were English, History, and Library Science.

She lived alone in Winthrop, Iowa during the years that I knew her. I was told that there was a man who proposed marriage to her once but it never came to happen. In her later years, she lived in the Good Neighbor home in Manchester, Iowa.

She taught English and History at the high school in Winthrop Iowa for most of her working career. I talked to a student of hers in later years and I was told that she was a stern teacher. I can believe that.

She was quite a seamstress. I believe that this was passed down to her from her mother, Mary Josephine (Ellis) Cook. She wrote in her stories about how she made her own way at an early age as a seamstress, designing and making dresses for people.

My memories of her include our visits to her house in Winthrop. She was somewhat formal in personality, but every once in a while she would break into laughter, opening her mouth wide and laughing from her belly. I can still hear it now, literally, on the cassette tapes she left us, laughing about her brother Howard LeRoy, and some of his shenanigans as a little boy. She was quite a practical lady, and her home decor was neat and orderly. She would seem to interview me about what was happening recently in my life when we would visit. We would talk about interior design and how she used to decorate her apartments on a shoestring budget. She made me feel like a respectable young man, and a Cook man at that, as if there was something special about me because I was a Cook. I’ll never forget when we were pulling into the driveway at our house one day. Aunt Luella was riding with us, and she got to see my first car, a 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air. It was a rusted out old thing that barely ran, but she knew how proud I was of it. She looked at me and said to us all, “Well Mr. Cook, isn’t that a smart looking bus!” I beamed with pride. I have other memories of her making me feel this way.

When she passed away I wrote her a letter intended for her to read up in heaven. I took it to the City Park in Iowa City and burned it, hoping somehow that she would get her message by me doing so. I loved her very much.

Now she lies at rest next to her parents Edward William and Mary Josephine (Ellis) Cook. They are buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Manchester, Iowa, just across the street from where I presently live.

Thank you so much Aunt Luella for all of the work you did researching and documenting our families history and for always believing in me.

If you’d like to hear her voice, here’s an introduction to her cassette tape stories that I have recorded.

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