Sat | Aug 24, 2019

Aston Cooke remembered

Published:Sunday | February 24, 2019 | 12:22 AM
Aston Cooke
Aston Cooke

‘Shock and sadness’ are the words being used to describe the sudden passing of award-winning theatre and cultural practitioner Aston Cooke on a day which would have held special significance for him – Jamaica Day. Many persons have since paid tribute to the man, who was affectionately known to friends as ‘Cookie’.

Fellow Wolmerian Milton Samuda spoke lovingly of his friend, Cookie, who he described as “nuff, plentiful, and larger-than-life.” He said, “Our yearbook at school, The Wolmerian, had this to say about him : ‘If nuffness was electricity, Cookie would be a powerhouse’.”

He added “One of the things I am going to miss most about him is his optimism. Cookie always saw the positives, and for that reason, he was never depressed or distressed. He loved Jamaica and its people, and for that reason, he was able to write about it with so much affection and humour. He was a Jamaican who epitomised the best of Jamaica.”

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange said, “the news of Aston’s passing in the midst of our cultural celebrations on Jamaica Day is a blow for us all” but added that Cooke would have been “proud of the glorious display and embrace of Jamaican culture in our schools and communities”.

She said that Cooke, a proud Wolmerian who was also an inductee in the Caribbean Hall of Fame for Arts and Culture, “displayed a level of commitment to his culture that must be emulated and admired”.

She described him as a gentleman who has left a proud legacy that echoes the makings of a cultural icon, and on behalf of her ministry, expressed condolences and sympathies to Cooke’s family and friends.

“Be comforted in the fact that his legacy is untouchable and that he has given his best years to what he loved dearly, his culture.”

The Actor Boy Awards was quick to pay tribute to the 61-year-old, who had been the recipient of nine Actor Boy Awards for outstanding achievement in various categories of theatre in Jamaica.

“Today (Friday), Jamaica lost one of our prime theatre practitioners, Aston Cooke.

He wore so many hats, too numerous to mention at this time, but will mostly be remembered as a loving, nurturing, jovial spirit. RIP, Aston. Jamaica, and even moreso, your theatre family, will miss you.”

THEATRE NATURAL

Born in Kingston, Cooke attended All Saint’s Primary School in Jones Town, Kingston, and later won a Common Entrance place to Wolmer’s Boys’ School. He began writing plays as a student at Wolmer’s as an active participant in the Schools’ Drama Festival of Jamaica.

Chairman of the Board of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Mexine Bissasor remembered the former chairman and Miss Jamaica World co-franchise holder as “a quiet giant who contributed to Jamaica’s culture and specifically, theatre, without fuss or clamour”.

She continued, “Aston Cooke did what he felt was his duty to country and culture regardless of any hindrances. His legacy is one that speaks to love, passion, and honour.”

Meanwhile, a student posted the following to Instagram, “RIP to my lecturer. Tuesday’s class will be one to give thanks for the time we had with you, wish it never had to be cut short (sigh). RIP to my lecturer.”

Reports are that Cooke’s body was found on Friday morning at his St Andrew residence.

It is theorised that Cooke, who had been unwell, fell and hit his head.