When Dave Bradshaw moved from Upstate New York to Southern Maryland in 1993, he figured it would be a temporary relocation.
Then, as he settled in as physical education teacher and coach at McDonough High School, he got to know his boss, Rams Athletic Director Lesley Cooke.
"She's been my mom for the past 12 [school] years," said Bradshaw, the Rams' football coach since 2000. "She made me want to stay at McDonough. I felt I was in a great situation with the way she treated me and took me under her wing."
That was the effect Cooke had on her colleagues and students during her 28 years at McDonough. She died Monday morning at age 57. Her family requested that the cause be withheld until an autopsy report is completed.
In spite of recent health struggles, Cooke's loyalty to her job and McDonough -- she had been at the school since its opening in 1976 and served as athletic director since 1992 -- kept her committed to her work. With the start of practice for winter sports looming, she knew she had mountains of paperwork in her office.
"Even on Sunday, she made me take her over there [to the school] just to get some work done," said her husband, Donald Cooke, who is the principal at La Plata High School.
When Cooke arrived at McDonough, she was a physical education and health teacher. She also coached the Rams' volleyball team until she became athletic director. The Rams advanced to the Maryland Class A final in 1983 and were state semifinalists under her in 1982, '91 and '92.
"What she loved most was working with kids," her husband said. "It went way beyond the X's and O's of a sport. Many of them stayed in touch with her, and she wanted to know what they were doing."
Said McDonough Vice Principal Pat Cunniff, who arrived at the school from Thomas Stone in 1992, the year Cooke became athletic director: "There isn't a coach who doesn't miss [coaching] once they leave it. She used to tell me, though, that she didn't miss traveling on the buses to games, but she always missed working with the kids."
In 1996 Cooke was a recipient of The Washington Post's Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award. Two years later, she was named the District IV Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. For the 22 school years before this one, she also oversaw McDonough's National Honor Society chapter.
"It's going to be very difficult to imagine McDonough without her," Bradshaw said. "She's as much McDonough athletics as anyone."
In addition to her husband, Cooke is survived by her mother, Lillian Welch, and two children, Tracy Reece, 36, and Matt, 31.