Along the way, Cook would banter with his Brentwood neighbors. He offered them food and company. When people needed jobs, he helped them look. Cook — neighbors called him “mayor” — watched over his District community for more than 40 years.
In June, Cook died after he was hit by a dump truck. Family, co-workers and neighbors remembered him as someone who was always positive and never failed to make a new friend. They found his sudden death incomprehensible.
Cook was still working as a mail runner at Fort Myer Construction Co. at age 84 when he was killed — not because he needed the money, family members said, but because he enjoyed being around people. His lighthearted whistles and songs could often be heard in the company’s hallways.
“He was real,” said Beatrice Cook, his wife of 63 years. “He helped people, he loved his family, he was a hard worker.”
At about a quarter past 9 a.m. on June 19, a sunny Tuesday, police responded to a report that a man had been hit by a dump truck at the construction company’s asphalt plant on W Street NE. Cook was rushed to a hospital, where he died.
Police have termed Cook’s death an “industrial accident.” The incident is being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which declined comment on the case.
“Our heart goes out to the family and close friends,” said Chris Kerns, general counsel for Fort Myer Construction. “He had a lot of close friends here at the company.”
Fort Myer officials said the truck was not owned by the company, but they declined further comment, citing company policy. Authorities have not named the driver or the company that owned the truck.
Beatrice Cook was chatting on the telephone the morning of June 19 when another call came in. She ignored it and continued with her conversation.
The call came again. It was her grandson, flustered that he hadn’t been able to reach her. Leroy Cook had been hit by a truck.
“That was the absolute worst day of my life, I swear,” she said.
Weeks later, Beatrice Cook thumbed through an expandable brown folder as about a dozen family members exchanged memories of the man nicknamed “Cookie.” They sat in chairs and sofas in her cozy living room, its walls dotted with family photographs.
She pulled out the glossy, four-page program the family gave guests at Leroy Cook’s June 29 funeral service. A picture on the front cover showed Leroy smiling, his left eyebrow cocked upwards. “Let the Life I lived — Speak for me,” a lyric from a gospel hymn, was written in black italic letters.