Full name: Laura Marlice (Dudley) Cook
Dates of life: January 31, 1963 – April 5, 2014
Where born: Houston, Texas
History of family: Laura was the third of four children born to Donald Ray Dudley and Linda Stephens Foley. Ray preceded Laura in death on December 22, 2011 after battling lung cancer.
Marriage: Laura married Vincent Cook on March 7, 1992 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.
Children: Their only child is Alexandra Cook who was born on April 26, 1994 in Houston, and is currently in her second year of studies at the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Their life: Laura entered the working world straight out of high school. Of the companies she worked for, she was most proud of the years she worked in marketing at Compaq Computer. She traveled extensively and worked tirelessly to set up new product announcements and coordinate corporate functions and was very passionate about her career. She also decided to obtain a college degree and began earning credits on a part-time basis while working full-time.
In 1990 Laura and Vince met through a mutual friend and co-worker at a 5k fun run race, and got engaged and were married 17 months later. One of the first tests of their relationship was remodeling a 1912-vintage home in Houston’s Woodland Heights to be their first residence together. The house had not been lived in for 20 years and everything needed to be updated. Laura handled all of the design aspects and put in many hours of sanding and painting in between her full-time job and classroom hours. We were proud of how the house turned out and enjoyed seeing the neighborhood transition, as well as all the friends we made.
Laura eventually switched to part-time at Compaq in order to focus more on her degree. She left Compaq and worked for a couple of other firms all the while continuing to accumulate credits. Having a child derailed the schooling for awhile, but over the course of several years she gathered the credits to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology cum laude from the University of Houston in 1997 with a minor in Marketing.
After Alex was born in 1994 Laura continued working part-time for a few years, but eventually quit in order to spend more time with Alex. Laura took her on frequent trips to museums, swimming, music, and ballet lessons, berry picking, pottery and acting classes, and many, many more activities. As Alex grew she went to soccer games and a plethora of swim meets.
The family moved to Spring, a suburb of Houston, in 1997 to get a larger home in anticipation of a larger family. They loved their new home and closer proximity to family, and spent many hours playing in the pool, on the playset, and gardening (at least, Mom and Dad did).
The family next moved to Mission Viejo, California in 2003 for Vince’s new job fully intending to return to Texas within 5 years. However, the company was very successful and job so rewarding that soon a decade had passed. They grew to love their new found home and friends, and enjoyed exploring the state. Two of Alex’s favorite trips were a girl’s weekend in Julian, California and a trip to Yosemite.
Travel was always a passion of Laura’s and she used her event planning skills to organize wonderful family trips to Colorado, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Hawaii, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Napa, San Francisco, Italy, England, Scotland, Mexico and more. One of Laura’s and Vince’s favorite trips was to France in September 2012 after dropping Alex off at school in Scotland. They enjoyed visiting Paris, Normandy, Champagne, the Rhone Valley and Nice. During the long 15 months that Laura fought cancer she was able to visit Alex in Scotland in November 2013 with her mother-in-law Joanne Cook, and dreamed of taking one more family vacation in Hawaii over Alex’s 2014 spring break. Unfortunately it was not to be as she was too ill.
Laura was a caring and considerate soul who regularly donated her time to all sorts of church, sports, charitable, and school related activities. She was a regular volunteer at the Jessie Rees Foundation helping to fill Joy Jars to send to pediatric cancer patients. After she was diagnosed with cancer and was being treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, she had some Joy Jars shipped so she could personally deliver them to the pediatric ward. Laura spent countless hours poolside supporting Alex’s swimming career with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, Coto Coyotes and Santa Margarita Eagles.
Laura was brought up in United Methodist church and as a youth was baptized and confirmed in her faith. She became a member and trustee at St Luke’s United Methodist church where she taught children’s Sunday School for 10 years before we moved to California. Hers was an active faith that required her to minister to others. Whether she was teaching Sunday School or Vacation Bible School or going on National Charity League missions or volunteering at swim meets or working at JRF she wanted to be touching and impacting others. That is partly why the last 15 months of cancer were so difficult for her as she had to learn to accept help from others, and indeed even learn how to ask for help.
Laura loved being outdoors where she enjoyed all kinds of activities including camping, hiking, gardening, water and snow skiing, but especially running. She competed in numerous 5K and 10K races, and 3 half marathons in the year before her cancer diagnosis.
Laura was diagnosed with sarcoma in January 2013 right before her 50th birthday. She was determined to beat it and moved in with her mother in Houston so she could be treated at MD Anderson cancer center there. After her first two rounds of chemotherapy she dropped to 85 pounds, but told her oncologist she was ready for more if necessary. By the time the tumor was removed it was over 9 cm in size, and required two large skin flaps to close. She came back to California in August and continued her recovery, but by the time she was well enough to restart chemotherapy the cancer had already metastasized to her lungs, liver and bones. Laura continued to believe she could be healed and endured six more cycles of chemo with very few complaints. To her last day she was more concerned about those she was leaving behind and making sure we were okay than anything else.
Survived by: Husband Vince, daughter Alex, mother Linda Stephens Foley, sister Diana Philpot, sister Claire Whitehead, brother Donald Dudley, and nieces Ashton Wren and Amber Whitehead. Laura’s siblings remember their sister as a bit of a daredevil. She’d do anything the bigger kids were doing, despite being much smaller and weaker. Laura didn’t see challenges as obstacles, but rather as achievements to conquer. She experienced life in its fullest measure from birth, and never slowed down.
Other special notes of her life:
Laura loved well-lit open spaces which is perhaps a metaphor for her personality. She would always throw open the shutters to let the light in. Other passions of Laura’s included gardening as she enjoyed having colorful flowers around her, crossword puzzles, cooking and feeding the birds. She was a voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction works. Laura liked to drive fast sports cars and was not afraid of heights – she would freak Vince out when she’d dangle her legs over the edge of a cliff! Laura was very proud of her Texas heritage and never lost her slight drawl or her friendly ‘y’all’. Wine and champagne were a special interest and Vince and she enjoyed wine country vacations and building their wine collection. She and Vince invested in a local retail wine store called Amazing Grapes and took pleasure in meeting friends there for tastings and intimate conversations.
How would you describe her:
Loving, caring, determined, independent, tenacious, passionate, organized, thoughtful, runner, hard worker, strong, courageous, daring, active, selfless, unique, robust, fun, feisty, fighter, creative, crafty, patient, supportive, hard headed/headstrong, frustrating, forgiving, loyal, Texan, giving, opinionated, reader, kind, fair, open, careful, free spirited, knowledgeable, sharer, advisor, teacher, dreamer, athlete, curious, beautiful, go getter, smart, interesting, innovative, singer
Donations should be made to the Jessie Rees Foundation, a 501c3 public charity dedicating to ensuring every child fighting cancer has the encouragement, resources and support to Never Ever Give Up (NEGU).
Jessie Rees Foundation
PO Box 80667
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
Special song, poem, etc.:
Phoenix Rising by Alexandra Cook, 1/24/2014
Just as the phoenix burns and dies,
Yet rebirths and survives,
So will I–
With you never far from my mind,
And always in my heart
I will live on
And continue being strong.
I may know fear,
I may still cry,
But as the phoenix burns to survive
I will move forward with my life
To see you again once we revive
To see you again in Heaven.
God’s Heavenly Garden by Glenna Hoff, April 2001
God looked around his garden and found an empty place
He looked down upon the earth and saw your tired face
He put his arms around you and lifted you to rest
God’s garden must be beautiful, he only takes the best.
He knew that you were suffering, he knew you were in pain
He knew that you would never recover or get well again
The road was getting rough, the mountains hard to climb
So he closed your weary eyelids and whispered ‘peace be thine’
It broke our hearts to lose you but you did not go alone
For part of us went with you – the day God called you home.