Main | Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Their Love Is Golden

This will warm even the most cynical of hearts, even mine.
John Cook and Waverly Cole are doing what they’ve been doing for 50 years — traveling, enjoying the company of friends and giving to charitable causes.

Cook, an 88-year-old retired teacher and school counselor, and Cole, a 78-year-old retired physician, are poised to celebrate their 50th anniversary April 15 with a cocktail party among friends. At last week’s Servicemembers Legal Defense Network dinner in Washington, the two were recognized on stage for reaching their Golden Anniversary.

During a lengthy phone interview last week from their second home in Virginia Beach, the two recalled the fateful 1958 cocktail party where they met in Farmville, Va. We were introduced and we found each other attractive and pleasant and nice and so we started going together,” Cook says.

Job opportunities led Cook and Cole to Richmond in 1960. As far as they know, they were the first gay men to live together openly in Richmond. After selling their home two years ago, they moved into a retirement home, also in Richmond, with their dog, a Jack Russell mix named April.

Cook served in the Army during World War II and was part of the second wave of troops that stormed Omaha Beach in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He was also among the thousands of troops who liberated Paris from Nazi control. Cook enlisted in the Army three months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He entered as a buck private and was promoted to staff sergeant during his three-and-a-half-year service during the war.
Fifty years. The couple continues to be interested in gay activism, supporting the repeal of DOMA, with Cook saying, "I can tell you right now if they had fired every gay and lesbian person in World War II, we would have lost the war." Interestingly, the couple prefers civil unions over gay marriage. Cook says, "I don’t think it’s wise to call it gay marriage. I think you should call it civil unions and give [us] all the rights and benefits that occur to married people." From the story: "Cook and Cole have been major donors to gay advocacy groups like Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, SLDN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and Equality Virginia."

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