Easterseals Northeast Central Florida’s passionate supporter, lifetime director and beloved matriarch Gloria Cook passed away on March 17. While we at Easterseals are brokenhearted at the news, we also remember Gloria with great reverence, and honor all she’s meant to our organization – the one that was closest to her heart for more than 60 years.
Gloria’s relationship with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida began in 1953 when she, as a young Junior Service Leaguer, donned a crisp white uniform and worked hands-on with an Easterseals therapist to treat the special needs of children with disabilities. That first volunteer assignment began a lifelong unpaid career in serving the needs of people of all ages with disabilities.
Gloria’s involvement in day-to-day activities of the Junior League Orthopedic Center (which became Easterseals) eventually evolved into fundraising and volunteer management, and she soon worked her way up to the board and presidency of the local and state Easterseals affiliates. By 1980, Gloria was elected as the National Easterseal Society President and was the first Floridian and only the second woman to occupy that position.
As national president, worked with as many as 800,000 volunteers across the country, and met with various private and governmental agencies and hospitals, national media offices and state rehabilitation facilities and all Easterseals affiliates to further the mission of serving persons with disabilities.
Gloria was named Honorary Lifetime Director for Easterseals Volusia/Flagler in tribute to her continuous board member and committee roles and in 2004 was honored with Easterseals’ Volusia and Flagler’s highest honor, The Lily Award. Additionally, she served multiple leadership roles with the statewide Florida Easterseals chapter over a span of 21 years – including president, vice president, secretary and past president – and assisted the House of Delegates of Easterseals national headquarters. Her commitment to serving others also flowed into several additional national and local roles, including the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health and the National Institute of Health.
One of Gloria’s most notable achievements as an Easterseals director was co-chairing with the late David Hood a $3 million capital campaign to construct Easterseals’ Daytona Beach facility. Notably, Gloria was the Easterseals chair when the original facility was built as well. Her leadership brought both projects to reality, though more than 40 years separated them.
Gloria’s life’s work for Easterseals shaped countless public policy and helped decision-makers understand issues important to Easterseals. And, while she often focused on state and national initiatives, she remained equally engaged in the local agency’s day-to-day projects. From collection donations for Harley Give-Aways during Bike Week, to supporting the inaugural and now decades-established Rotary/Easterseals Golf Tournament (a tournament started by her late husband Tom in tribute to Gloria’s dedication), Gloria was a hands-on supporter.
Easterseals VP-Gift Planning Susan Moor recalls their friendship and Gloria’s sincere interest in Easterseals families.
"Gloria was a wonderful friend and mentor to me since day one and throughout my Easterseals career,” said Susan. “I think what I valued the most in her contagious and unbridled pride for all things Easterseals, was her incredible ability to remember and value details about her interactions with our clients and their families. Our clients meant the world to her and she would often arrive at meetings and functions early enough to peek into the classroom and therapy areas to see kids at work and play."
“Gloria has been a guiding light for us at Easterseals for many, many years,” said Easterseals President & CEO Bev Johnson. “Her kind spirit and love and dedication to the clients we serve is absolutely irreplaceable. She will be missed greatly.”
Former Easterseals President & CEO Lynn Sinnott also shared her sentiments.
“Gloria Cook loved Easterseals and served individuals with special needs throughout her adult life. She served in so many capacities during more than 60 years she was a part of Easterseals it would be almost impossible to name them.
“I remember her as gracious, strategic, fun, loving and caring,” added Lynn. “She took time to discuss a small or strategic issue with me, pen the most beautiful notes, help to make a connection and even questioning a budget number. Every action was handled thoughtfully. I will miss her, as will whole Easterseals organization and all who experienced her passion.”
Instilling in her children a love for Easterseals and a desire for service, Gloria’s daughter Sheryl continues to be a leader with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cook family during this difficult time. Gloria’s vision, heart and loyalty live on in Easterseals Northeast Central Florida. She always will be an important part of our family – a beloved matriarch to whom we owe much gratitude.