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Centralia Fireside Guard obituary: Vera Fountain Cook

Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at 1:16 pm

Vera Fountain Cook

Vera Virginia Fountain Cook’s story began in St. Louis Missouri January 18, 1927 when welcomed by  parents James Richie Fountain of Centralia and Mary Lucinda Van Winkle of Norton, Missouri. Vera grew up on the family farm near Centralia with her extended Fountain family. Her father and uncles were farmers and among other things they raised mules and soy beans. Her father and uncles had been known as the “Mule Men”.Other family residents of the community included her aunt, Lucy Fountain Morris and adopted cousins Dean and Shirley Friedlie their family and her cousin Annabel Fountain Howard.

Vera was 93 and she passed away, December 19, 2021.

Vera enjoyed the benefit of weekly piano lessons, and Methodist church involvement “in town.” She attended Centralia schools and was a member of the Centralia High School Alumni Assn. She last attended their reunion banquet in 2011.

At the age of 16 her life was drastically altered. Her father died and her brother, Van Winkle, a pilot in WWII, was killed while on a mission over Truk island.  The farm was sold and Vera and her Mother went to Marshall Missouri to live with her aunt. Many years later Vera repurchased part of their family farm.

The year she graduated in 1946 from the University of Missouri she married Richard Arthur Cook of St. Louis. Richard, who was in the army later continued his PhD. studies in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis where they re located while Vera worked as a social worker.

Children, Carol, Ritchie, and Howard were born in the various locations the army sent them including Tokyo Japan where Vera learned the art of Ikebana flower arranging.

  Richard was assigned to the disciplinary barracks at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas as a psychologist. This location which afforded frequent visits with her extended family in Marshall and Centralia was home for three years. In 1961 the family finally settled in San Rafael, California close to where Richard was assigned as a staff psychologist at Letterman General Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco.

She was soon back in school for special education teachers training at Sonoma State College and Dominican University where she earned her masters.

In 1970 she lost her dear husband, after his long illness. She continued to live in San Rafael as a single parent and teacher.

Through an audition with a local choral, she discovered that she could sing. Singing led to many fulfilling years with the chorals and her home choir at Aldersgate Methodist Church. A tradition she learned at the Centralia Methodist church. She often noted that “You can’t be depressed and sing too”.

Taped to her kitchen cabinet was a quote from Montaigne, “I want death to find me planting cabbages” The flower and vegetable gardens that she delighted in sharing with her family were a steady pass time. Vera aspired to make her yard look like an impressionist painting. She often offered us to “take the tour”.

Hosting celebratory meals was her favorite family and friends get togethers. The blessing she would always sing to us before the meal was

“Be present at our table Lord, be here and everywhere adored.

Thy creatures bless and grant that we can feast in paradise with Thee.”

Later in life Vera overcame challenges to doing the things she enjoyed. At 85 she successfully re- qualified for her driver’s license. The quote on her kitchen wall, “We can not choose our paths but we must choose our destination” guided her as she graciously and bravely negotiated several medical conditions. She accepted the indignities of loss of independence with no complaint, lots of humor, and tenacity. Her sense of the absurd and interest in observing the human condition especially children prevailed. She was quick with a “thank you”, “please” or a “how do you do?”. She had compassion for others and tried to forgive any personal offenses as all were “doing the best they could” Vera sternly prevailed upon us as children the statement “There but for the grace of God go you or I”

We are so grateful for all she taught us, her fine example of how to be, the fun times we had and the love she graciously gave us.