Eugenia Cook, 87, who, with her husband, owned a landmark Lagrange Street funeral home begun by her father, died of congestive heart failure yesterday in Harborside-Healthcare, Swanton, where she had lived about two years.
She had dementia and lived with her son, Tom, and his wife, Carol, for four years before that.
Mrs. Cook, formerly of Manley Road and Nantucket Road, lived most of her life in the Polish-American neighborhood called Lagrinka.
Her father, Frank Gasiorowski, began a storefront mortuary a few years before her birth.
Visitation, in those days, was conducted at the home of the deceased or at a family member's home, so they could work out of a storefront, her son, Tom, said.
Her father opened a funeral home in 1917 at Lagrange and Oakland streets, currently known as the Gasiorowski Memorial.
“She basically grew up at the funeral home,” her son said.
Mrs. Cook was a graduate of St. Ursula Academy.
She met Ronald Cook when he arrived from Indiana to work for her father. The couple married and, eventually, took over ownership and operation of the mortuary from Mr. Gasiorowski.
Mrs. Cook, though not licensed, ran the business during World War II, her son said. Mr. Cook was in the military, and her father was in ill health.
“She hired a funeral director to cover the licensing,” her son said.
She continued to work at the business when her husband returned.
“She did all the book work, the administrative work,” her son said. “She did consultations with families. She loved working with people. It was very dear to her that people [were] in a time of hurt, and she tried to do something for them.”
Her husband died May 14, 1986.
Mrs. Cook and her husband retired in 1973 and turned over the business to son Tom and his associate, Thomas Leonhard. They continue to own and operate the mortuary.
Continuing the family business “was very important to her,” her son said. “Up until the last few years, anything she could do or support in the Polish neighborhood, she did. To her, the neighborhood and the Polish people in it were everything.”
In retirement, she and her husband traveled the country, spending winters in Florida, California, or Nevada. She was a volunteer at the Progressive Eye Center and, because helping children was an interest, at the Anne Grady Center for those with developmental disabilities.
In the old neighborhood, she was a member of the Lagrange Street Business and Professional Women's Association. She helped organize the St. Adalbert Church Cub Scout troop, her son said.
“The best way to describe Mom: She had a personality that could make a room shine,” her son said. But “she was very hot tempered and very stubborn. If she knew she was right, she didn't care if it was popular or not. That was it.”
Surviving are her sons, Frank and Tom; seven grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in the Gasiorowski Memorial, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow. The family requests tributes to the Lyons Christian Church youth programs or a youth group of the donor's choice.