Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Rest In Peace, Sweet Leo

Leo was born 16 Feb. 1909 in Vista Grande, San Mateo County, Calif. and died on 15 November 1983 in Hanford Calif. He and Georgia Gowin married on 9 April 1934 in Los Angeles , Ca. They purchased a Los Angeles Times newspaper distribution district (route #40) from Leo’s father Howard. Leo and Georgia divorced during early years of the war. Leo joined the Navy in 1942. He trained at the Naval Training Center in Farragut, Idaho and was a Storekeeper. "Sea Bee’s " training was at Port Hueneme (why-knee-me) California before shipping out to the Pacific theater in the Solomon Islands (Bougainville) and New Heberdes Islands (Espiritu Santo). Although he was not on the "front lines" his unit experienced continuous bombings from the Japanese. He sent "war souvenirs" to his son Jerry which included shrapnel fragments, Japanese bayonet, hand grenade, a clip of rifle ammunition, and a mortar shell....still in his possession. He married Patricia Gibson in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 8, 1958 . The address on Leo’s S.S. card is 39 Justin Dr., San Francisco, CA. It is not known when he lived at this address...it has not appeared on any other document. His father Howard (Jerry Howard Cokely dob 1881) owned a barber shop in San Francisco when Leo was born. A post card addressed to the barber shop congratulating "Howard" on the birth of his son is included in the personal memorabilia retained by Jerry Cokely dob 12-25-34. A map showing the shop's location is included in the three ring document binder in Jerry Cokely's possession. He was left handed. After the war he lived on the ranch at 9700 13th Avenue, Hanford with his father until his death on 30 Nov. 1947 The quaint country house was demolished and replaced with a new home built on the same property possible in the early or mid-1950's. This is a very rough estimate. He maintained a forty acre grape vineyard (wine grapes) which later became an alfalfa ranch, then a wheat ranch and later a cotton ranch. Human cotton pickers were employed, dragging their typical nine yard sacks to hold the cotton, before the mechanical cotton picking machines were invented. The hand pickers were known to throw in a couple of dirt clods to increase the weight of their harvest thus increasing their payment. He sold the ranch, with certain conditions, a few years before his death. At his death Pat moved to a double wide home in Hanford and the new owner of the ranch planted the entire forty acres with walnut trees. His wife Pat worked for several years as a legal secretary, newspaper reporter, travel agent and traveled extensively but Leo had little interest in traveling although he did make one trip to Alaska with Pat. He had a "ham radio" receiver and a scanner for the local law enforcement and emergency services which he enjoyed monitoring as he reclined in his stuffed living room chair. He was pleased to "pick up" overseas ham operators and radio transmissions. Jerry introduced him to the Heath Kit electronic kits and he constructed a weather station and a digital clock. The kits came with hundreds of tiny electronic parts and an instruction book on how and where to solder them to circuit boards in order to make it work. He enjoyed having a cat and during his granddaughters (Sandy and Suzie) visits "George" received plenty of attention. Another cat "Momma cat" blessed those girls with a kitten which they had for many years. Leo was an outgoing person who found it easy to start up a conversation with nearly anybody. Maybe this is why he ventured into the insurance sales business for a brief time. Throughout his life he maintained a keen sense of humor and had a "good supply" of jokes to tell. While maintaining the ranch he also worked in the liquid ammonia fertilizer business and distributed liquid ammonia to various ranches in the Hanford area. He drove a school bus for many years, in the autumn of his life, for the Kings County School District. He maintained a "disciplined bus" and the students likely respected him for that. Any student who repeatedly failed to follow school bus rules found him or herself watching Leo's bus pass them by resulting in the parent having to take the student to school. It was a most effective discipline tool. He never expressed an interest in any religion but respected his son's family's decision to become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He enjoyed watching the satellites cross above the ranch in the night sky and was very impressed with the immensity and endlessness of space. At his request his remains were cremated in Hanford Calif. and his ashes were scattered in the poppy patch (flower garden) on the ranch at 9700 13th Avenue, Hanford CA by his wife Patricia Cokely. Obituary in the Fresno (California) Bee dated Wed., Nov 16, 1983; " Leo. R. Cokely, Hanford---Cremation for Leo R. Cokely, 74, will be held at Whitehurst McNamara Funeral Chapel. Mr. Cokely died Tuesday. He was as a farmer and he was employed by the transportation department at Hanford High School. Mr. Cokely was a World War II Navy veteran. Surviving are a wife, Pat; a son, Jerry of Utah; and two grandchildren." Obituary from the Logan, Utah "Hearld Journal"; "L. Cokely, Leo Rex Cokely, 74, Hanford, Calif, died Nov.15, 1983 in Sacred Heart Hospital in Hanford, after a brief illness. He was born Feb. 16, 1909, a son of Jerry Howrd (mispelled) and Lulu Cokely. He married Patricia Gibson March 8, 1958. He served in the U.S. Navy as a storekeeper and served in the South Pacific during WWII. He was a retired rancher and school bus driver for the Hanford School District. Surviving are his wife of Hanford; one son, Jerry H. Cokely, and two granddaughters, all of Wellsville." Both obituaries are in possession of Jerry Cokely. He sent his mother a souvenir copy of the 1942 Christmas dinner menu from the U.S. Naval Training Center in Farragut, Idaho. He wrote a letter to his "Ma" on the back of the menu informing her that he was eating well and expected to stay in Idaho after training. The menu is in the possession of his son Jerry Cokely. His original Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Navy is also in possession of Jerry Cokely. Leo had a tailor made Navy uniform which he gave to Jerry after he enlisted in the USN in 1953. The uniform fit and he wore it with pride although non-regulation uniforms were verboten. In his later years he enjoyed making pomegranate jelly from the bush near the front of the house at the ranch. It was not an impressive looking bush but the yield proved to be delicious. In 2006 the neglected bush was still surviving and had dried fruit still hanging on a few branches. Jerry and his family cherished taking a few containers back to L.A. after their visits

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