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Myrna Jean (Milton) Cook

1932 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Myrna Jean (Milton) Cook Obituary
Myrna Jean (Milton) Cook, 84
CAPE ELIZABETH - Myrna Jean (Milton) Cook, 84, passed away peacefully on Jan. 4, 2017, at Falmouth by the Sea.
Born in Westbrook on Oct. 12, 1932, to Robert and Daisy (Lamson) Milton, Myrna graduated from Westbrook High School in 1950 and from the nursing program at Bates College in 1955. She received recognition for numerous academic achievements throughout her education, from top honors in spelling bees and public speaking to gaining a full scholarship to Bates College. She went on to earn a master's degree in counseling while raising a large family and working full time.
According to her son Mark Cook, Myrna's life was defined by two major themes, compassionate service to others and the lifelong love of her life, Bill Cook.
"Mom was an extraordinary caregiver and the most empathetic person I have ever known," noted Mark. "She had the ability to deeply connect with people. When you were in her presence, there was no doubt you had her complete attention and focus. You felt completely heard and understood and compassionately held and supported."
Myrna worked as a visiting nurse in Boston before marrying William H. Cook on Nov. 7, 1958. They lived briefly in Key West, Fla., Elmira, NY, and Bangor before settling in Cape Elizabeth in 1967 with their five young children. During the 1970s, Myrna worked as an RN in skilled nursing facilities in the Greater Portland area, and helped to develop the training program for geriatric nursing aides at Westbrook College before becoming a social worker with Holy Innocents in Portland.
In later years, Myrna led support groups for people suffering from chronic pain. She shared leading-edge techniques in mindfulness and breathing which helped many participants to enjoy richer and more fulfilling lives. Nothing meant more to Myrna than to be in service to others, especially those in great need and with limited means. People often said that her mere presence with them was healing.
After retiring, Myrna joined Bill in weekly prison ministry at the Cumberland County Jail. They both considered their many years of this volunteer service to be the most important work of their lives, and often remarked that "jail ruined them" for ordinary life, as they found the hours they spent with inmates to be profoundly meaningful.
Myrna's experience leading faith-sharing groups at the jail led directly to her founding of the local non-profit My Sister's Keeper (MSK) in collaboration with the United Methodist Church of Cape Elizabeth. MSK works to meet the immediate needs of women who struggle for a safe and successful transition from jail or prison to home, family, and community.
Myrna's steadfast efforts, persistence, and unending focus inspired numerous people to volunteer their time and effort. Brilliant at engaging others in service, Myrna would start requests with the phrase "Would you be willing…" when she asked someone to move a couch to an apartment or to make a small donation to provide clothing. People found it nearly impossible to say no to her when she made a request in service to others. In recognition of her groundbreaking work with MSK, the Portland Press Herald featured her as one of ten Mainers to be thankful for in November, 2012.
Myrna and Bill's fifty-year marriage was filled with the joys and challenges of raising a large family while working and serving their communities in a variety of ways. They were never happier than when in each other's arms and loved dancing together. In their later years, they were often seen riding their bicycles, swimming at Crescent and Scarborough beaches, taking a slow motorcycle ride to Bug Light in South Portland, or caring for one or more of their ten beloved grandchildren. When they were together it was as if there was a glow of bright light around them.
Myrna was a lifelong learner who developed herself in service to others. Her bookshelves contained books on a wide variety of topics, including spirituality, personal development, and physiology. In 2005, she fulfilled a dream she had held onto since childhood when she was ordained as an interfaith chaplain through the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine. "Our mother lived a life of loving kindness and has influenced the lives of her children and countless others," notes daughter Heidi.
Myrna was predeceased by her husband, Bill Cook; her son Michael Cook; and her siblings, Richard Milton and Geneva Collins. Surviving family members include Peter Cook and his wife, Peg, of Whiting, Mark Cook of Cape Elizabeth, Heather Hodgin of Florida and San Francisco, Calif., and Heidi Cook of Pittsfield; ten grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at the United Methodist Church in Cape Elizabeth on Jan. 11 at 10:30 a.m. with reception to follow immediately after the service.
The family would like to convey deep appreciation to the caregivers and support staff at Falmouth by the Sea as well as at Kindred Village Crossings in Cape Elizabeth.
Arrangements by
Hobbs Funeral Home
, South Portland.

Memorial gifts may be made to:
My Sister's Keeper c/o Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church
280 Ocean House Rd.
Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107

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Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram from Jan. 7 to Jan. 8, 2017
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