Louise Gaylor Cooke deserves special recognition for her dedication in preserving the history of Point Vivian. We thank Richard Randall for bringing the tribute article he originally published in the Thousand Islands Sun. Over the winter we hope to bring you more of Ms. Cooke’s wonderful research.
If you were to write an article relating to Point Vivian, who better to write it than the Historian of Point Vivian, Louise Gaylord Cooke, that is unless the article was about Louise Gaylord Cooke.
To those in the Thousand Islands area the name Louise Gaylord Cooke may seem familiar. Over the last 50 years Louise has been writing articles about Point Vivian and the St. Lawrence River. Her topics range from cruise ships on the river to ocean liners and have appeared in The Vacationer or Thousand Island Sun. She has written extensively on the history of Point Vivian and has been the correspondent for Point Vivian's weekly updates.
Her articles are interesting and often provide insight into River topics. She talks about her love of Point Vivian and that she has spent every summer of her life at the Point. Her first visit to Point Vivian was by steamboat, being carried in her mother’s arms.
Her great-grandfather, William Cooper built their cottage in 1884 and it is one of the oldest at the Point. She has also served as secretary/treasurer and on a number of committees.
Louise was born on April 14th, 1923 in Watertown, New York. Her father was Levi Gaylord of Lyons Falls and her mother was Clara Slack Gaylord of Felts Mills. Louise has a sister, Carol Rutan and two nieces, Sara Rutan of Portsmouth, Virginia and Connie Kartoz of Princeton Junction, New Jersey. Louise has lived in Lowville, NY all her life. She attended Lowville Academy and graduated in 1941 and also went for one year to Canton School of Technology.
Following her graduation from Powelson Business School in 1943, she entered the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services). Louise was married to Richard Cooke in Portland, Virginia in 1945 and divorced 1948. As a result of her short marriage she did have a son Douglas who was born in May of 1947.
Louise, with the support of her father and her mother, made a commitment to be a stay-at-home mother to take care of her son Douglas, who was born with a developmental disability. At a time when state schools served the developmentally disabled, she became an early outspoken advocate for the state to support the disabled in the home.
Her Doug passed away in 2000 after enjoying many years with his mother in Lowville and at the river. She has courageously defended numerous cases involving human rights for the developmentally disabled. Louise was instrumental in founding the Lewis County Chapter of the ARC in 1956. She served as secretary and soon had a reputation state-wide as a vocal advocate for the developmentally disabled, a reputation she maintains today, being as active an advocate as ever and continuing to fight for the disabled.
When not at the river, she can be found supporting the Trinity Church in Lowville by doing dishes or serving food on special occasions as well as serving on the church finance committee. A member of the American Legion, she will often comment that she volunteers to help the elderly, many of whom are 10 years younger. She still attends meetings for the ARC of Oneida County, and the WAVES, traveling from Lowville to Utica, NY.
Those of us who are neighbors on Point Vivian know Louise spends the majority of her time sitting on the back porch. She says that from her spot, she can see the river and all that is going on at the Point. She frequently engages in conversation with people passing by and collects tidbits of information about life in the community. When she does go out, she travels around the Point stopping and visiting with many cottage owners. These conversations are often reflected in her Thousand Islands Sun columns. I am one of the lucky ones, as Louise has given me a copy of every article she has written over the last 50 years.
She says that she came to the Point Vivian being carried in a blanket and will probably leave the same way. However, at 87 years young she remains a writer, advocate, volunteer and committee member who is not ready to slow down just yet.
By Richard W. Randall, President Point Vivian Park Association, Inc.
Richard W. Randall credits Louise Cooke for interesting him in the history of Point Vivian and the Thousand Islands. He was born in Utica, NY and graduated from Syracuse University. He worked for the State of New York for 35 years and also ran a corporation that built computers and specialized in computer training. He and his wife Bonnie Zilnik were given the opportunity to purchase their Point Vivian cottage which had been in Bonnie’s Aunt's family since 1929. The Randalls have four adult children and all appreciate the charm of Point Vivian. Richard has been a trustee of the Point Vivian Park Association for seven years and began his term as president four years ago.