If optimism helps to combat cancer — and many believe that’s true — it also serves to prop up the caretaker, in Wayne Cooke’s case, his wife. Pat and Wayne Cooke have been a real estate team at Coldwell Banker on Nassau Street. “Everybody at work talks about how Wayne comes into the office with cheer,” she says. “It is so helpful that he has a positive attitude; I do not have to deal with someone who is a complainer, or withdrawn.”
“After the shock, you settle into a routine,” says Pat, who has accompanied her husband to his oncology appointments since his diagnosis in 2003. “But a lot of anxiety goes with it. Any time you are faced with a serious illness, all kinds of things build up in your mind. Each time he gets a cold, I wonder if it will lead to something serious. You learn to take one day at a time, because you can’t see beyond that.”
“My faith and our church ties have been critical to my acceptance and endurance in this situation,” she says. They belong to Princeton United Methodist Church, where he sings in the choir. “His illness has probably increased my faith and made us stronger as a couple in many ways. We appreciate each other. We stop to smell the flowers.”
Her lifestyle changes? She juggles real estate responsibilities with doctors’ appointments and plans activities around the week-long aftermath of chemo sessions. “We are still social — we go to the Nassau Club — but we don’t do as many late nights,” she says. To keep up her own strength she swims at Princeton Fitness and Wellness Center and takes their collie, Luke, on long walks. She frequents Princeton’s library and takes her needlepoint to all the doctors’ appointments and hospital visits.
Pat grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan, where her father worked for Chrysler, and after graduating in 1963 with a degree in speech and drama from California State at Northridge, she taught school for five years. When she met Wayne, and he asked her for a date, she was too busy to see him because, as “Miss Michigan Republican,” she was on the campaign trail with George Romney, the father of the current Republican candidate.
As an IBM wife she learned to move — to Pittsburgh, Princeton, the Netherlands, Paris, Princeton, Hong Kong, and Princeton again. Her peers say she is good in real estate because she has moved into Princeton three times (and out twice).
She and her husband have been in real estate for 17 years, usually making at least $5 million in sales, and one year they sold one of the houses that Woodrow Wilson had owned. That last year’s market was slow was a blessing, she says, because she needed to spend more time with their sick grandchild (see page 51) and welcome the new grand baby. Also in 2006, her brother was fatally injured in a house fire.
“That was the year that was,” she says. “We’re looking forward to the coming year, and hoping it will be much better.”