John Edwin Cook Jr. passed away in his sleep at home Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, after a 31-year battle with HIV/AIDS. John was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 7, 1961, to John Edwin Cook Sr. and Margaret Martin. He grew up in Baltimore, Md. and Camp Lejeune, N.C.
In 1980, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and completed basic training in Paris Island, S.C., where he was selected for training in the Presidential Guard Unit. He served Presidents Carter, Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush. He especially loved duty at Camp David with President Reagan and Vice President Bush. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1985 with the rank of corporal.
In 1981, he married Cheryl Jill Obstfelder and they had a son, John Sansbury Cook II, in 1984. They divorced later that year.
On Nov. 12, 1988, John met Arthur Crunden in Wilmington, N.C. They had an immediate connection. Beginning in 1990, John attended Cape Fear Community College and the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He studied mathematics education with the dream of being a teacher, but he became ill before he could finish his studies. In Wilmington, John worked with The Opera House Theater Company and had small parts in several movies, including Exorcist III.
John and Arthur moved to the Dallas area in February 1994 and were joined together in a civil union ceremony on Aug. 3, 1996, at the Cathedral of Hope. They later married on May 16, 2010, in Kent, Conn.
John contracted HIV from a blood transfusion he received after injuring a knee on a USMC training mission with the ROK (Republic of Korea) Marines along the DMZ in South Korea in 1982. After failing to recover from a minor infection in 1984, John discovered he was HIV-positive. He was told he had six months to live. He began his battle with the AIDS virus in 1990, and in 1996, was diagnosed with PML and again was told he had six months to live. Many of the drugs now used to treat HIV/AIDS were tested on John. Because he lived so long with the virus, doctors and researchers were able to gain new insights into the disease’s progression by studying John’s case.
John was a member of the Cathedral of Hope, then White Rock Community Church and finally First Community Church of Dallas. He volunteered at White Rock Friends for many years, serving Tuesdays and some Saturdays, as well as being a member of Positive Voices. John loved animals and provided a happy home to many over the years. John also enjoyed arts and crafts. He made quilts for his doctors and many of his family and friends.
John was looking forward to marriage equality and a cure for HIV/AIDS. John’s family expresses their sincere appreciation to the doctors, nurses and other caregivers that supported John all these years, especially the Dallas Veteran Administration Hospital, Infectious Disease Department and Jackie Rohrick.
A memorial service celebrating the life of John Edwin Cook Jr. will be held Saturday, Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. at First Community Church of Dallas, 9120 Ferguson Road. In honor of John’s part in the search for the cure for HIV/AIDS, his family would appreciate your support of Bryan’s House John E. Cook Memorial in lieu of flowers.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 1, 2013.