Lou Cook

Lou Cook

Former School Board chair, Scholarship Fund founder dies at 89.

Lou Cook, former chair of the Alexandria School Board, died March 8 at the age of 89.

Lou Cook, former chair of the Alexandria School Board, died March 8 at the age of 89.

Lou Cook, former chair of the Alexandria City School Board and one of the founders of the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, died March 8 at her home at Goodwin House Alexandria. She was 89.

Born Marylou Bernard on July 3, 1934, in Spokane, Wash., Cook was one of four children born to Lyle William Bernard and Katherine Zint Bernard. Raised in an Army family, Cook graduated high school in Heidelberg, Germany. Upon returning to the states, she attended George Washington University and obtained a degree in education.

It was during her time at university that Cook met her future husband, George Cook. At the time, George Cook was a young businessman who would eventually build Colonial Parking into the largest parking operation in the Washington region.

The couple wed June 1, 1957, living in Fairlington and Parkfairfax before settling into the family home on Crescent Drive in 1967. Together they raised four children and were married for 61 years prior to George’s death in 2018.

Cook and her husband began their civic engagement in 1963 when they were part of a successful effort to end Alexandria’s poll tax. George Cook would go on to serve on City Council in the 1970s as part of Mayor Charles Beatley’s “dream council” with Cook a constant and active participant in her husband’s political campaigns.

Cook served on the school board from 1977-1983 with three years as chair. While on the school board she was an advocate and advanced the family health curriculum. A witty storyteller, Cook had a weekly column in the Northern Virginia Journal. She was also a longtime columnist for the Alexandria Gazette and the Port Packet.

“Mom’s column was like a humor column,” said Cook’s eldest daughter Katie. “As a kid, when each column was published, my friends always asked, ‘Did this rally happen?’ She always had an interesting story to tell.”

In 1986, Cook unsuccessfully ran for City Council to fill a vacancy during a special election held in August of that year. Controlling development and pushing for affordable housing were key issues in Cook’s campaign. At the time, State Sen. Wiley Mitchell (R-Alexandria) spoke on Cook's behalf, saying, "She's tough. She's articulate. She's incisive … she's a leader.”

That same year, Cook and her husband helped establish the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria. A former schoolteacher, Cook wanted to help ensure that all Alexandria students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, had the opportunity to attend college.

Cook is survived by daughters Katie Cook and Kelly Adair Cook, sons Albert George Cook IV and William Bernard Cook, seven grandchildren and one great grandson. A sister, Elizabeth German, also survives her. She was predeceased by her husband George in 2018.

A visitation will be held Monday, March 18, from 2-4 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home, 1500 Braddock Road.  A funeral service will take place Tuesday, March 19, at 11 a.m. at Our Lady Queen of Peace, 2700 19th St. S in Arlington. Inurnment will be at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, 3330 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302-3001.

“The older I got the more I understood what an amazing person my mom was,” Katie Cook said. “She wrote these columns, was a Girl Scout cookie chair, used to drive kids to the public health center. And for at least seven years she made all our clothes. She really was remarkable.”