{ "" }
Share DENNIS's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
COKELY, Dennis R. 71, of Lexington, passed away on August 15, 2018. Devoted father of Scott Cokely and his wife Beth of San Francisco, CA, and Ryan Cokely of New York, NY. Proud and adoring grandfather to Leah Cokely. Dennis is also survived by his former wife of 29 years, Micky Cokely.

The oldest of five children of the late Edmund and Mary Cokely of Portsmouth, NH, Dennis was a loving brother to Maureen Cokely-Case (Ted) of Walpole, David Cokely (Diane) of Greenland, NH, Kevin Cokely (Karen) of Dallas, TX, and Donna Dupre (John) of Hudson. A caring uncle, Dennis leaves behind 5 nephews and 1 niece.

Dennis was a pioneer in the Deaf and American Sign Language interpreting communities. His personal and professional impact was wide reaching over the course of his career at Gallaudet University, as President of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), and through his work at the company he co-founded, Sign Media, Inc. For the past 22 years, Dennis has been passionately committed to Northeastern University where he most recently served as Professor of Cultures, Societies and Global Studies, and as the Director of the American Sign Language Program.

Calling Hours will be held Friday, August 24 at the Douglass Funeral Home, 51 Worthen Rd., LEXINGTON, MA from 4 pm to 7 pm. Relatives and friends are kindly invited. A memorial service will also be held at a later date at Northeastern University. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to The Learning Center for the Deaf, 848 Central St. Framingham, MA 01701. Interment private.

Lexington 781-862-1800

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Boston Globe from Aug. 18 to Aug. 19, 2018.
Calling hours
04:00 - 07:00 PM
Funeral services provided by
Order by phone: (866) 764-7853
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
34 entries
August 13, 2019
Deep appreciation for you and your wonderful heart and mind during your life, including in the deaf communities, interpreting communities, in linguistics, in learning groups and communities, and professional communities.
Peggy Maher
November 20, 2018
Jason Simpson
September 5, 2018
Thank you for your impact on the Deaf Community...
Jody Johnston
September 1, 2018
As a linguist, Dennis knew very well that sometimes there are no adequate words to express a deep sense of loss. But we can rely on thoughts from the heart to express the sorrow of losing a fine man like Dennis. To his family and loved ones, I send my sorrow for your loss. He was one of my finest students at Georgetown and I knew that he would do great things with his life. He certainly made us all proud of him.
Roger Shuy
August 31, 2018
The world has lost an amazing researcher and a gifted teacher. Your mark was made sir.
Tamara Moxham
August 25, 2018
I (Carl) first met Dennis through the R.I.D. and later we worked together at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School developing educational and ASL materials and presenting workshops. Dennis was very creative and hard working with a strong sense of purpose. His ability to make an impact on many aspects of ASL, linguistics, teaching, interpreting, and performing was unmatched. It has and will continue. CJK

I (Suzie) have a long experience with Dennis in the musical genre. We spent long hours analyzing the meanings of songs and then translating them in two ways. First, for conceptual correctness and secondly a sign per word translation to demonstrate the foolishness of the later. Nobody could sign the wrong version with as much correct emotion as Dennis. SJK

We will miss him and all that we have learned from him.
Carl and Suzie Kirchner
August 24, 2018
I remembered Dennis as an interpreter coordinator for Gallaudet College Theater during the 70's. He also coached them and voiced for many male actors. He was an inspiration and a friend to all of us, cast and crew.
Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.
Billie Jordan
August 22, 2018
I remember meeting Dennis while I was a student at Gallaudet University in the late 1960's. He was a seminarian at a seminary in the DC area and met Patrick Graybill, a deaf seminarian, who taught him sign language and he eventually left the seminary to learn all he could about American Sign Language and became fluent and then went into the field of ASL interpreting. I'm just glad he contributed a lot to our Culture and sign language over all those years . Will miss him !
Elaine Navratil
August 22, 2018
Godspeed, Dennis,

Thank you for your lifelong dedication and heart embracing deaf people, accurate and top quality interpreting, and teaching everyone who came to learn from you.

Heartfelt regards and respect,

August 21, 2018
Dennis was my best friend. And so I feel like I just lost my best friend. He always showed up for me. Like 50 years ago this March, as I had just returned to my hospital bed after surgery, the first face I saw was Dennis', popping in for a visit to cheer me up by making light of my non-dire plight a typical episode of playful caring that tended to define our friendship. And so it has gone through the years, a shared blessing for us. Dennis was many things in his highly accomplished life: father, scholar, educator, author, advocate all done with amazing energy and enthusiasm. But to me he was first of all my friend good-natured, funny, impractical, generous, charmingly extravagant. We had so much fun and so many laughs over time, and it never occurred to me that the laughs we had during his visit this July might be our last. Intensely private, Dennis was fated to leave quietly on his own, without intrusion or even saying goodbye. I'll miss him. Goodbye, CB.
Russ Forrester
August 21, 2018
I am shaped by my former instructors and Dennis has been instrumental. He was always willing to share his expertise with any of this students even after graduation. He will be missed. May he rest in peace. My sincere condolence to his family and loved ones.
Sharon Mendes
August 21, 2018
I have been a Board member of DEAF, Inc. for many years, and for a number of those years Dennis served as an interpreter for our meetings. Just a very sweet and wonderful human being. I am so sorry for his passing.

Michael Gardener
Michael Gardener
August 21, 2018
I am truly saddened by this news. I was honored to study under Dennis and have him as my academic adviser as part of his first NU graduating class in 1997. Dennis was so knowledgeable without being arrogant; so patient without being distracted; and so inspiring without being grandiose. He was such a positive influence in my life and I am so lucky to have had him as a teacher. He was so special. My deepest sympathies to his family and colleagues. He will surely be missed. Godspeed, Dennis.
August 21, 2018
A devastating loss of intelligence, foresight and collaboration. His impact on the Deaf and interpreting communities will reverberate for generations to come. Humble yet illuminating. Gone too soon.
Thank you for sharing your mind, thoughts and expertise with thousands across the globe.
Thank you too for including Ohlone in your Outcome Circle grant. I learned and hopefully contributed to our collective body of knowledge.

Rest in Peace and godspeed.
Shelley Lawrence
August 21, 2018
Such a sad day. He will be greatly missed! Thank you for teaching me so much through the years.
Julie Hendrix
August 21, 2018
His Flame will forever burn in my Daughter ( Jackie Emmart ) and the Deaf Community .A man gone way to soon he will be forever missed but always looked up to for his legacy that he has left behind to all that he has touched. I pray for all that are mourning the loss of this kind soul.
August 21, 2018
Dennis was an incredible professor, a kind man, and an inspiration to me (a former student). I am incredibly sad to hear of his passing. My deepest condolences to his family and friends, his colleagues, his students, and the many lives he has touched thru his work.
Nicole Nordeste
August 20, 2018
Dennis was and is an icon in the interpreting community. I have been privileged not only to be educated out of his "green" books, but spent a week at NEU in a training he gave. Brilliant man. He will be greatly missed.
Sandra Hester
August 20, 2018
Terry Gardiner
August 20, 2018
Dennis was a generous colleague who showed me many kindnesses. I will miss him.
Beth Britt
August 20, 2018
With deepest sympathy to Dennis' entire family, friends, Deaf community, and Interpreters everywhere. He Influenced and impacted us all. His magic will live on forever. RIP Dennis Cokely!
Marion Myhre
August 20, 2018
We are so saddened to hear of Dennis' passing and our condolences to Micky, Scott and Ryan. We spent many years together in Maryland when our boys were growing up best friends and playing soccer. Those memories feel like yesterday...we had great times in Naples. Please know that we are thinking of you and our sympathies are with you. We are so very sorry for your loss.
Kathryn and Len Fogelsonger
Kristi, Nick and Ryan
Kathryn Fogelsonger
August 19, 2018
I think I have known Dennis as long as I have known ASL, or close to it. He was a leading figure in our field in so many areas and always pushed the limits of our vision to new heights. We have lost a shining light.
Judy Shepard-Kegl
August 19, 2018
Mr. Cokely's impact on the Deaf and Interpreting community will be carried throughout the generations. Never to be forgotten--forever carrying fond memories of his passion, strength and vibrance. A pioneer and a man of extraordinary importance for all past, present, and future generations. Our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. May his grand legacy give you some comfort. His legend shall live on. God bless.
Jennifer Miller
August 19, 2018
Rest in peace, dear Dennis! Thank you for all the mentoring and support you have given me over the past decade!
Hua Dong
August 19, 2018
Dennis was a mentor and a colleague. He and I team-interpreted one of the early international SL conferences so many years ago in Denmark. He was one of the people who "had my back" through my graduate work. I never understood why he was so kind and so supportive, as I was a nobody...just a returning student, doing grad work at UCLA, not exactly a hotbed of ASL research! Many years later, though, I was able to return the favor, by hiring DRC to replace me at Northeastern, as chair/director of the ASL/English Interpreting program. From there, he applied his usual energy and enthusiasm and transformed a humble beginning program into a brilliant success. Nobody should have been surprised. Surely that was the greatest thing I ever did for the NEU program and I'm very glad I could do that.
Marina McIntire
August 19, 2018
A few months ago I chatted with Dennis about work and the commute, and we somehow got to the subject of retirement. I can't wait to get to the age of seventy to retire, I said. "Well," he answered, "I'm past that." It was clear he had no plans to curb his work, no plans to slow down, and no whining. His legacy was a lot of small things like that, and not just the celebrated achievements.
Shakir Mustafa
August 19, 2018
A great loss at a personal and professional level, even though we have not been at the same institution for a decade. The world is a poorer place with out you.
James Stellar
August 19, 2018
Deeply Sympathy of Dennis Cokely, Also He was very greatly hard work of NEU, He always say Big Hello and hugs with me but He sign like Robot 'My name is Dennis' I say finish stop was hard laugh to him, He was very wonderful job of his comedy of NEU, I always deeply sadness and grief my heart / alot miss to him, He can care do watch all family / relatives and friends of His Heaven <3
Ona Stewart
August 19, 2018
To all my Cokely cousins, I send my sincere sympathy. I wish I could be there to share your grief in person.
Love, Nancy
Nancy Fennesset
August 19, 2018
Such a great loss. I knew Dennis when we both lived in Portsmouth and then we both crossed paths a million times after that all around our interpreting and overall involvement with the Deaf community. So much talent and so much caring for others. He will be missed.
Pamela Ryan
August 18, 2018
The Deaf community has lost a gigantic gem. There will be no one else like Dennis. May you, Dennis, soar high and free! Hugs!
Sandra Ammons
August 18, 2018
Will miss you Dennis! You always been great to deaf community and interpeter community . I will keep your name legacy forever ❤
Bianca Hoffmeister
August 18, 2018
Dennis was a teacher, colleague and personal friend
for many years.
His contributions have advanced the lives of Deaf children and Deaf adults
We thank him for it.
Diane Hazel Jones
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences