MajGen Richard M. Cooke USMC (Retired) — It is with great sadness that the family announces the passing of Major General Richard “Dick” Cooke USMC (Retired). On September 18, 2019, Dick passed peacefully, surrounded by family.
Dick was born in Buffalo, N.Y. on April 4, 1930. He was a 1952 graduate of Buffalo (N.Y.) State Teachers College, where he earned a B.S. degree in Education. On May 23, 1953, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following flight training, he was designated a Naval Aviator in April 1955.
Dick flew a multitude of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft in his 35 years as a Marine Corps pilot. In 1956, while stationed at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miami, Fla., flying the AD-5 “Skyraider” with VMA-331, he met his wife of 58 years, Dorothy Janet McDonald from Pittsburg, Pa. In 1960 he transitioned to the A4D-2N “Skyhawk” assigned to VMA-332, MCAS Cherry Point, N.C. In 1962 he was ordered to MCAS El Toro, Calif. and assigned to the Marine Air Weapons Training Unit (Pacific) as the supervisor of the Attack Syllabus. This command ultimately evolved into today’s Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One.
After completing helicopter refresher training, he was ordered to Vietnam in September 1966 as the Executive Officer of VMO-2, flying the UH-1E “Huey.” He was wounded in combat during this tour and received the Purple Heart. In 1967 he reported to MCAS (H) New River, N.C., becoming the Commanding Officer of HMM-365 flying the CH-46D “Sea Knight.” Shortly thereafter in 1968, as Commanding Officer of VMO-1, he transitioned his squadron to its inaugural OV-10A “Broncos.”
Following several staff tours, and promotion to Colonel, in 1974 Dick assumed duties as Director of the Amphibious Warfare School in Quantico, Va. In 1978 he was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C. as Head of Plans/Programs and Budget Branch. It was in this tour that planning began for what would eventually become the Marine Corps’ MV-22 Tiltrotor aircraft, the “Osprey.” He was assigned duty as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation in April 1979 and advanced to Brigadier General.
General Cooke was next assigned as Assistant Wing Commander, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS, El Toro, in July 1980. In May 1981, he was assigned as Commander, Marine Corps Air Bases, Western Area/Commanding General, MCAS, El Toro, Calif. He was advanced to Major General in March 1983. In August 1984, he was assigned as the Commanding General, 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS, Cherry Point, N.C. During this tour, Dick flew every aircraft type in the Wing but took special pride in becoming fully qualified as an AV-8B “Harrier” pilot. He served in this capacity until he assumed his final assignment as Deputy Commanding General, Fleet Marine Corps Pacific in July 1986. Major General Cooke retired from this position on August 31, 1988.
Following retirement from the Marine Corps, Dick served on the City Council of Vista, California.
He is survived by three sons, two daughters, a son-in-law, and daughter-in-law: Richard Cooke Jr., Christopher Cooke, Patrick Cooke, Mary McKeon, Kerry Cooke, Brian McKeon, and Alison Cooke. He is also survived by eight grandchildren: Connor, Jack, and Delaney McKeon; Katherine, Sean, Tyler, and Natalie Cooke and Boden Cunningham. Additionally, his two nieces and nephew: Susie Bertolone, Katie DeNunzio and Allan McDonald of the greater Miami, Fla. area.
Dick was preceded in death by his wife Janet, his parents: William Cooke Sr., Margaret Cooke, and by his brother and sister: William Cooke Jr., and Nancy Carlson of Buffalo N.Y.
Dick loved his wife Janet, his family, his Marine Corps, and his Country. He achieved his American dream through dedication to family and service to Corps and Country.
The family will hold a private remembrance of Dick’s life at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please donate in his name to any of the following organizations:
Blue Angels Foundation
Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation
Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum