Cook, Bruce L.
Passed away peacefully at the Trillium Health Centre, on Thursday November 1st, 2012, in his 90th year. Beloved husband of Helyn for 67 years. Loving father of David (Sheila) and Donna (Don W. Martin). He will be fondly remembered by his six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. Also survived by his brother Kenneth (Ena). Predeceased by his brother Don and his granddaughter Lisa. Friends may call at the TRULL "NORTH TORONTO" FUNERAL HOME & CREMATION CENTRE, 2704 Yonge St. (5 blocks south of Lawrence Ave.) on Thursday from 1:30 pm until time of the Celebration of Life Service which will be held in the chapel at 2:30 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations made to the Sam McCallion Day Centre or to Victoria College, University of Toronto would be appreciated by the family
On line condolences may be made at www.trullfuneralsyonge.com.
Bruce Llewellyn Cook – Biography
Bruce Cook was born in Toronto on May 1, 1923 to Mabel (Pickett) and Francis George Cook. He was the middle son of three, sandwiched between Ken, the eldest, and Don, the baby. Although his parents had come from farms near Uxbridge and Zephyr, Bruce was born in a lovely old house with a porch, situated on the northwest corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue when Eglinton was little more than a dirt track. His dad, Frank, worked down the street at the corner of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue for Welch's Lumber. Eventually Bruce's family home was torn down to make room for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building that is still standing and is currently housing a coffee shop.
As a youngster Bruce knew how to get into trouble, and this soon earned him the nickname of "Rudy" from his older brother. Bruce's penchant for misdemeanors also meant a few trips to the 'woodshed' with Grandpa Frank and once, an overnight in a Toronto jail due to a neighbour's complaint. But Granny Cook, who lived with them, had a soft spot for Bruce and usually turned a blind eye whenever he grabbed, and single-handedly devoured, one of the dozen or so pies she left cooling on the kitchen windowsill every week.
Bruce attended Eglinton Public School across the street from his house. There, in kindergarten, he first met Helyn (Lancaster). Bruce had no idea at the age of five that Helyn would eventually be his one true love and life partner. He completely ignored her. He didn't begin to take an interest until they were in grade 12 together at North Toronto Collegiate Institute in 1940. 'Rudy', at six foot two, was a ruggedly handsome lineman on the NTCI and the Balmy Beach football teams. Even the Toronto Argonauts were interested in this gutsy player. 'Lanny', as Helyn was known to her friends, was a dark-haired beauty, and together they made a striking couple.
These, however, were difficult times. The war in Europe was underway and Bruce wanted to become a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1942, right after graduation from NTCI, he enlisted and underwent a battery of tests, including one for colour blindness. It appears that Bruce already knew at that time that he could not distinguish red from green and that this could end his dream of becoming a pilot. Undaunted, he waited for his turn to look into the colour blindness machine, and memorized the answers given by those ahead of him in line. He passed the test with flying colours. It wasn't until much later after his pilot training was done that a doctor discovered Bruce's deficit in this area. Incredulous, he looked at Bruce and with a sigh, said, "Well, you've got this far. Carry on." And Bruce did, although once at the height of the war in England, he landed his plane safely only to receive a major verbal trouncing from an officer: the landing light on the ground was red, but it had looked like green to Bruce!
In the meantime, back in Toronto and working for the National Research Council, Helyn knitted socks to be sent overseas and wrote daily aerograms to Bruce. The aerograms she received from Bruce were a quarter of the length of hers since much of what he wrote had been blacked out by the censors. Helyn never knew until much later that Bruce's squadron was to be sent to Burma and that, at the last moment, Bruce had fallen ill with the 'flu and had been left behind in England. As it turned out, this had been a lucky break for Bruce. Unfortunately, almost everyone in his squadron was destined to perish in Burma. When Bruce recovered from the 'flu, his superiors didn't know what to do with him so he spent the rest of the war piloting VIPs all over England (if they had only known he was colour blind!!). On one occasion, Bruce had the dubious honour of meeting the Queen Mother and shaking her hand. He often joked about the lengthy instructions he had received beforehand on how to do this hand-shaking 'properly'.
In mid-August 1945, Helyn received word that Bruce was coming home. She and her mother had three weeks to design and make her wedding dress before the September 5th wedding. Bruce liked to describe his arrival by train in Toronto several days before the scheduled wedding: as he descended the coach, a joyful Helyn flew across the train platform and threw herself into his arms. They were married in Eglinton United Church, spent their wedding night at the King Edward Hotel and honeymooned at Deerhurst Inn. Bruce then started working with his father building houses in the Bennington Heights area of Toronto.
A year later, Bruce enrolled in Commerce at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. Bruce wanted to be in Forestry, but with so many returning GIs, Commerce was the only program with openings. Helyn typed his essays and Bruce stuck it out for one year. The arrival of their son, David, during that year persuaded Bruce, however, that he needed to get a job to support his growing family. He pounded the pavement looking for work, but there was nothing to be had in Toronto, so the three of them moved to Winnipeg and lodged temporarily with Bruce's paternal uncle, Stanley, who was at that time head of the Royal Bank of Canada in Manitoba. This was a very difficult time as Bruce landed a traveling salesman job servicing rural areas around Winnipeg. He was expected to spend the week going from small town to small town selling his wares and return home on the weekend. Bruce and Helyn found a small apartment in Winnipeg and ordered furniture from Eaton's catalogue, but soon stories of traveling salesmen in their broken-down cars freezing to death in prairie snow drifts persuaded them to send back the furniture and return to Toronto to Helyn's parents' house. Eventually, they bought a house on Fairholme Avenue where Bruce built all the furniture and Helyn made all the drapes and other decorations. Apparently, it was quite a showplace.
From the time David was six months old, they spent summers in the cottage on Big Cedar Lake in the Haliburton region with a constant flow of family and friends. Bruce loved the outdoors and often missed Helyn's birthday in early November while out deer or duck hunting. The cottage at Big Bald Lake has several deer heads with impressive racks to attest to this. While he loved hunting, Bruce also loved collecting and was a very knowledgeable and fastidious collector. He began with antique British Military issue guns until he had one of the best collections in North America. Eventually, he branched out to antique lanterns, wooden and brass cash registers, bier steins, hand-painted china pot lids and antique Canadian clocks. In fact, Bruce would collect anything that was historically or esthetically pleasing to him, and he had a very keen interest in both history and aesthetics.
Around December 1951, Helyn and Bruce adopted nine-month-old Donna Francis. They were living on Cassidy Place in Don Mills and Bruce was by now working for Bostitch selling industrial staplers. A few years later, Bostitch transferred Bruce to Mississauga, an even newer suburb of Toronto, and they relocated again. Bostitch constantly challenged Bruce by dividing his territory, but he was un-phased and continued to maintain excellent sales figures. In spite of his chronic shyness and a desire not ever to be in the limelight, people were very attracted to Bruce. His gentlemanliness, his kindness to others and his many talents that he completely downplayed in addition to his handsomeness, made him a magnet for others. Bruce, however, preferred his family, his collections and his music: visits to his parents on Sunday afternoons, making sure new items acquired for one of his collections were in perfect working order, and every day going home to eat lunch and play an hour of boogie woogie or jazz tunes on the piano or the organ before going back to work in the afternoon. He never learned to read music, relying on his perfect pitch to play by ear.
At 60, Bruce decided to retire and devote himself fulltime to his collecting, playing the piano and spending time at the cottage. Collecting took Bruce and Helyn on car trips all around Southern Ontario, sometimes with their friends, Marge and Dave Barclay, but they also went frequently to England with longtime friends, Ruth and Jim Curtis. More recently Bruce and Helyn went on a couple of cruises with son, David, and daughter-in-law, Sheila, to the Panama Canal and to Alaska.
Bruce loved his family, especially Helyn, his son, David (Sheila), his daughter, Donna (Don), and his grandchildren: James (Lois), Lisa (who passed away from complications at birth), Melanie (Dean), Matthew, Greg, Andrew (Rachel) and D'Arcy (Aynsley). He was blessed with eight great grandchildren: Jared, Elisha, Emily, Brandon, Jaden, Zaidee, Owen and Ryan.