1916 - 2007
Cook Cleland died in Pensacola, Florida, on July 13, 2007 at age 90. Cook was born December 24, 1916 to Chester and Altje Cleland in Cleveland, Ohio. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ora Lee Cleland and brother, William Cleland.
After attending college at the University of Missouri, Cook began his long and distinguished naval career. He joined the navy in 1940 and went through flight training at Lambert field, Missouri. He married Ora Lee Cleland and continued advanced training in Pensacola, Florida. After qualifying as a dive bomber pilot, he became an accomplished "Ace" during WWII. Right after the war, he evaluated enemy aircraft working as a Navy test pilot in Lexington Park, Maryland.
After WWII, Cook acquired a small airport in Willoughby, Ohio. Along with Dick Becker, he offered flying lessons, air charters and other services. During this time, he turned to air racing in the Cleveland National Air Races. He was able to obtain three F2G Corsairs and began to concentrate on his dream. His dreams came true when he won the Thompson Trophy in 1947 and 1949. Cook discontinued racing when the Korean War began. He continued to fly Corsairs in the Korean War and continued his amazing and heroic accomplishments.
In 1967, Cook retired from the Navy in Kodiak, Alaska and moved to Pensacola, Florida. In Pensacola, a place he loved, he became involved in many businesses that included another of his interests, 18th Century American antiques. His love of that period and it's furniture began as a child. His parents were the first collectors. Cook and Ora Lee began an antique business while still in the Navy. In Pensacola, they continued that interest by operating Cleland Antiques in Seville Square for many years. His enthusiasm was always evident when teaching or talking about antiques. He poured a lot of enthusiasm into his many accomplishments.
In 2000, Cook was inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame in Detroit, Michigan.
Cook Cleland is survived by his daughter Carla Cleland Dedolph of Pensacola, son Todd Cleland of Oak Harbor, Washington, son Chan Cleland of Washburn, Wisconsin, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at Barrancas National Cemetery on July 17, 2007 at 3:00. A gathering of family and friends for a celebration of Cook's life will be held at, Bayshore Condominiums, 825 Bayshore Dr. at 4:00 on July 17 following the service. The family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, friends could contribute to the Pensacola Heritage Foundation in Cook's name.
Published in Pensacola News Journal on July 15, 2007