Life After Tappan Zee

Juanita Cooke - "Cookie"
1957 Graduation Picture
Recent Picture

I loved Piermont and all the kids on the block. Carol and Hazel Tuck, Edna and Ruthie Perkins, Peter Pagliroli, Jimmy and Charlie Francis, Joey Caputo, John Matrifalio, William Spordone, Sandra Mullins to name a few. Actually, I would have to name the whole town because the town was the block. The Hudson waters, hop scotch, hide and seek, showers under the drainpipes, night crawlers on the firehouse lawn watching the Mecurios kissing their boyfriends and the garden raids…….. Mrs. Pagliroli’s tomatoes, Mrs. Caputo’s and Mrs. Spordone’s grapes, Mr. De Vito’s mint for the tea and peaches from the Mullins tree. Life could not have been better.

Then my world fell apart because my father and mother had to move. Mrs. Spordone’s son was coming home from the service and needed a place to live. Off to Nyack I went crying all the way. No more vanilla sodas everyday at Hurban's.

Mr. Barone came to my rescue and found a way for me to continue to go to school in Piermont. He even saw that I had public transportation tickets so that I could ride the public bus when the school bus could not provide the transport. I will be forever grateful. Miss Gorsh would sing her songs, George O’Hara would torment my braids, Lois Oakley and I would hang out in the girls room, I could continue to watch Shirley Sisco hit the ball over Sparkill Elementary School and to watch Judy Sisco outrun everyone in the school. I could get into trouble with Bill Freda and sing the latest top tune in harmony with Jimmy and Charlie Francis, Joey Hernandez, George Cozart and Charlie Bullock. I could hang at Yokel’s and listen to Bill Ryple’s quiet laugh and Renee Dickow’s magnectic one.

I campaigned for offices in the school with the help of Barbara Kother and tried to pry answers out of Helen Danner. I could be that cheerleader for the teams with pride because even if we didn’t win every game we always gave them a run for the money. What pride with Doris "Blakie" Cunningham, as our head majorette breaking barriers long before the world was ready followed by Forence "Flugie" Kopac who strutted just as tall.

I graduated from TZ in 1957, with the best of encouragement from the teachers and Mr. Rist, not knowing much about discrimination because they were so good to us and so fair. Off I went to Cortland State. Rude awakening, but well prepared because TZ was the school that built self-esteem in all of us on a daily basis. While in college, Helen Danner’s mother called and asked if I wanted to teach swimming at the new Addison Boyce Girl Scout Camp. I quickly enrolled in swimming classes and for 4 summers while I attended college, I had a job. I graduated in 1961 and, because I knew so many people from the camp, I was welcomed into the Pearl River School district teaching 4th grade. I taught there for 3 years, but felt that I wanted to have some impact on minority children and moved to the district in Huntington Station where Bill Cunningham worked. I taught 6th grade in South Huntington UFSD#13 until I retired in 1996. I was busy every day of my life between friends, Europe, the Islands, The Hamptons, skiing, buying a house, projects and my latest career which still keeps me running at a fast pace.

In 1995 I was riding with a friend and noticed that a neighborhood restaurant was not doing well and went in to make him an offer. He took it faster than I could ever expect and the next thing I knew I was in the restaurant business with no experience whatsoever. I had to learn the business from the ground up with little or no money. I hired a Jamaican woman to help with the prep and since she knew little about American style of cooking, we added Jamaican items to the menu and The Cooke’s In, Inc. began. Another career was in the works. Eight years later, I am still in the business. I moved from a storefront to an old diner ….from 32 seats to 84. It has not been easy in this economic climate, but we have been voted Top Ten on Long Island for 5 out of the 8 years I have been in business. What an experience this has been.

I spend time between Huntington Station, New York on Long Island and in Sarasota, Florida where I bought a house 3 years ago. My goal is to open another restaurant in Florida. Funny that at this age I am still setting goals. Perhaps I should just play golf with Charlie Cozart, also in Florida.

Contact Information


Snail-Mail: 255 Lenox Road Huntington Station, NY 11746

Phone: 631.673.8709