Jay Jefferson Cooke
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Jay Jefferson Cooke

AGE: 53 • Philadelphia, PA

Jay Jefferson Cooke was born Thursday, Jan. 16, 1964 in Philadelphia. He passed away on Oct. 3, 2017 following a long battle with diabetes and end-stage kidney disease. He was 53.

Known as "Chief" to family and friends, Cooke was the first-born child of Jesse J. Cooke Jr. and Inez Helen Jones Cooke. He grew up in the East Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. Cooke for 42 years was a member of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church in the East Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, at which he in his youth was an altar boy, cantor and lector; and in adulthood served as President of the St. Therese Men's Association; Chairman of the St. Therese Capital Stewardship Committee; elected member of the St. Therese Parish Pastoral Council; member of the St. Therese Parish Finance Committee; and as personal aide to the pastor with responsibility of counting and recording the parish collections. St. Therese closed on June 30, 2013. Cooke always held dear Nazarene Baptist Church of Philadelphia, as his maternal family were members back to the founding of the congregation and remain in the congregation today.

Bullied as a youth because of his taste in music, Cooke took up boxing, martial arts, wrestling and other self-defense disciplines, which helped him gain the self confidence that was a trademark of his personality. On Oct. 31, 1978 he founded the brotherhood that became known as Roughshod Inc.

Cooke graduated from Central High School of Philadelphia as a member of the 240th graduating class in June 1981. Cooke was elected by his class and served as senior ombudsman.

Cooke earned two degrees from Temple University in Philadelphia, a bachelor of arts degree in communications (with concentration in radio-television-film management) in 1985 and a master of journalism degree (with concentration in media management) in 1989. Cooke was a proud booster of Temple University athletics, most specifically Temple University Softball. He twice was head coach of the softball team alumni against the current softball team in the annual alumni game. Cooke was crestfallen when Temple dropped softball as a varsity sport. A staunch supporter of equal opportunities for women, in addition to fervent support for women's athletics at his alma mater, Cooke also was for many years a proud title sponsor of the Temple University Diamond Gems Dance Team.

Cooke was a multi-award winning columnist/senior reporter for New Jersey Press Media assigned to the Courier News, the Home News Tribune and the MyCentralJersey.com website. He for many years was a supervising senior editor and also wrote for nearly 10 years the controversial but popular Color In Black & White column. Cooke, who had been an employee of the parent company Gannett Co. Inc. since 1991, worked for the New Jersey newspapers and website since 1994, coming to New Jersey from The Tennessean, a Gannett media organization in Nashville, Tenn.

Prior to joining Gannett, Cooke held editing positions with The Wall Street Journal, The Hartford (Conn.) Courant and Business Digest in Philadelphia. He previously worked at the (Doylestown, Pa.) Intelligencer as a sports writer. He also had written for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News. Cooke began his journalism career in April 1986 at The South Philadelphia Review-Chronicle as a freelance film, theater and live-music critic.

Cooke also taught journalism and writing. He as well lectured on a variety of topics including: Christian manhood, journalism (including editing, operations and writing), his personal experiences, minority issues, politics, stewardship responsibilities and urban life.

Cooke enjoyed traveling, having been a group leader of many vacations that visited Alaska, Hawaii, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Sicily and Spain. He traveled extensively in the United States, having visited the District of Columbia and 48 of the 50 states. Among his favorite places were his beloved hometown, as well as Oregon, Maryland, Kentucky and Louisiana.

Cooke was the most dedicated fan of the Atlanta, Georgia-based Southern Rock band Drivin N Cryin, an inductee of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Cooke became friends with the members of the band, road crew and management; and was proud to have attended more than 300 shows in more than 20 states. Cooke at times was a guest vocalist during live performances of the band and appeared in the feature-length documentary film about the band: "Scarred But Smarter: Life N Times Of Drivin' N' Cryin'."

Predeceasing Cooke were his beloved mother Inez Helen Jones Cooke; his beloved uncle Thomas J. Cooke; his beloved aunt of oath Gail B. Shinske; and his beloved Godparents Leon and Bernice Carter.

Cooke leaves to mourn him his father Jesse Jr.; his brother Kent and sister-in-law Donniell; his aunt Dolores Edwards; his aunt Ellen Cooke; his uncle of oath Earl C. Williams; his best friend Barbara S. Baldwin; his sisters of oath Caryn S. Shinske and Robyn Williams; his adopted mother of oath Minnie Woody; his Roughshod Inc. brothers and their wives: George G. Depountis (Thea), Nicholas V. Fierro Jr., Donald L. Gardner, James Horn (Rhonda), Gary L. Jones (Ranae), Clarence Lacy (Felicia), Anthony Scelzi (Laura) and Vincent Taliaferro (Tara); his nephew/Godchild Greyson Chandler Cooke; his niece/Godchild Lena Ceylon Cooke; his nephew of oath Jameson Brooks, his nieces of oath Chanae Jones and Rachel Joy Shinske; dear friends: Johnny W. Brooks, Vada O. Crosby, Edward J. and Mary H. Trayes; his favorite felines Black, Gimel and Quincy; as well as a host of other friends.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Cooke asks that donations in any amount be made to The St. Labre Indian School, Ashland, MT, 59004 (please note that the contribution is in memory of Jay Jefferson Cooke), or Nazarene Baptist Church, 3975 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19140, so that God's diverse work may continue.

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Published in Courier News on Oct. 5, 2017.