Arlene Kabara Cooke will be remembered as a humble, faithful and giving servant to the city of Brentwood and Williamson County.
Cooke, who died on July 22 at the age of 72, served on the Brentwood Historic Commission and as a county commissioner for 20 years. She also was chairwoman of the Library Foundation, chairwoman of Brentwood Historic Tour, president of the Brentwood Women’s Club, on the Brentwood Bicentennial Committee and on many other charitable boards throughout the years.
While giving was simply in her nature, her true love and devotion was for her husband and children.
From mayors to community leaders and friends, many spoke of how much Cooke was loved by her family and will be missed.
“Arlene was the nicest part of our family,” Bruce Cooke, Arlene’s husband, said. “She loved her community and liked giving, but her children and grandchildren were her true passion.”
Cooke was elected as a county commissioner in 1994 and left the role in 2014.
“Kindest, sweetest, considerate county commissioner who represented Brentwood and served her county with detail, especially on the budget committee,” Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson said.
Her attention to detail was why Anderson chose Cooke to run his finance operation for his county mayoral campaigns a few times.
“The world needs more Arlene’s,” Anderson said.
County Commissioner Paul Webb remembers Cooke as “a great person, somebody you want a call from.”
Webb reminisced about their time serving together on various boards.
“Arlene was a public servant who did the work and stayed the course,” he said. “She didn’t grandstand. She was passionate in helping her city and community.”
Anne Dunn, former mayor of Brentwood and a longtime city commissioner, was a dear friend of Cooke’s.
“She was loyal and thoughtful and always up for fun, whether it was with her bunco, bridge, bowling or lunch group,” Dunn said. “We were always roomies when our girls group would take road trips.”
Dunn told a story about an adventure the two shared. Dunn, who hates to fly, asked Cooke to travel with her by train for a trip to New York. They had to drive to Gainesville, Georgia, and catch a 10 p.m. train.
“The station was unmanned and out in the middle of nowhere. The mayor and the county commissioner stood patiently, freezing to death, waiting for the train, hoping we wouldn’t be attacked,” Dunn said.
As the ladies finally boarded and the train was pulling out, Dunn remembers Cooke laughing and saying, “I hope your car is still here when we get back.”
Linda Lynch, a former Brentwood communications director, was a friend of Cooke’s for over 20 years. They served together on many boards and committees for the city and county.
“She loved working with people and had a smile for everyone. She was also a tenderhearted person,” Lynch said. “I remember the first time I met her. She had tears in her eyes as she talked about taking her daughter, Shannon, to college. She said that the school would not let her go to Shannon’s room before Arlene had to leave campus.
“I felt so sorry for her and was almost in tears as she talked about it. Thinking that Shannon was miles away, I asked her where she was in school. It was then that Arlene told me that Shannon was at Vanderbilt.”
These are the types of memories Lynch enjoys thinking about as she remembers her friend.
“It was an honor, pleasure and lots of fun working with Arlene over the many years,” she said. “She will be missed.”
Brentwood City Commissioner Regina Smithson also remembers the kindness Cooke showed her family and her gift of throwing beautiful parties, baking yummy cookies for meetings and, as Smithson said, “she loved Christmas.”
“Every year at Christmas, (Cooke) would have Bruce put up seven Christmas trees. And not just any trees. Her decorations were gorgeous. Everything she did was done right,” Smithson said.
Lois Bondesen, another longtime friend and fellow Brentwood Women’s Club member, said she’ll remember Cooke’s love for Brentwood and Williamson County.
“Arlene was filled with ideas, hopes, plans and dreams for the future of Brentwood and Williamson County,” Bondesen said. “For many years, she worked hard with this same determination for the Brentwood Woman’s Club. Arlene was so passionate about everything she did for our club.
“You knew if you asked her to chair a committee or an event, it would be done with the same diligence and integrity as every task this Southern lady took on. Speaking of Southern ladies, attending a teatime in her lovely home was a treat in itself.
“Arlene had the stature that caused you to look up to her and an underlying quality that kept you always looking up to her. Arlene made you feel proud to be included in the same circle as she. Arlene respected different views, as long as they were supported with factual information.”
A funeral mass for Cooke is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 8 at Catholic Church of the Nativity in Spring Hill, with Father Jerry Strange officiating.
Visitation will be held one hour before the service, and memorial contributions may be made to the Catholic Church of the Nativity, at 2793 Buckner Lane, Thompson’s Station, 37179.