Janice ‘Jan’ Bauder Cookingham, 86, safaried in African tents to view lions, hippos up close

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Janice "Jan" Bauder Cookingham
Janice “Jan” Bauder Cookingham

Janice “Jan” Bauder Cookingham, of Williamsburg, died Aug. 31, 2015, after having enjoyed a productive and happy life. She was 86.

She was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware where she attended grade and high schools. In 1946, she was admitted to Syracuse University and graduated with honors in 1950 with degrees in journalism and home economics, which she put to good use in subsequent years in the business world. In her senior year she was elected president of her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega.

Her fist business position was in New York City as an associate editor at The Ladies Home Journal magazine to research and to write one of the magazine’s popular monthly feature articles titled “How America Lives.”

To accomplish this she traveled throughout the country and resided for a week with selected volunteer families to document the social and economic lifestyles by which they lived. Those who had interesting characteristics would be featured in an upcoming issue and rewarded with a weekend in New York City, as well as a redecorated room in their home. While in the city, she would also arrange for and accompany them to Broadway shows, sporting events and dinners.

She next moved on to a position in the Reynolds Metals Company that promoted the use of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil in a variety of applications, with an emphasis on the preparation of food. This led to her appearances on a number of TV cooking shows and also to a continuing responsibility for the preparation of foods for the commercial segment of the Mr. Peepers Show, a popular Sunday night TV show during 1952-1955 that was sponsored by Reynolds Metals.

While at Syracuse University, Janice met Bob Cookingham, who had been visiting from nearby Colgate University. They found that they had a mutuality of interests since he was president of his fraternity and she was president of her sorority. Both of them graduated in 1950 and continued dating since both had found jobs in New York City.

No one was surprised when Jan and Bob got married in 1953, and no one was surprised when they became parents of Jim, Steve and Sue in the next several years. When they found that they needed a larger house, they moved to Tarrytown, 20 miles north of the city.

When the children were all in school, Janice found herself with time to spare and searched for a part-time position. She found it at Columbia University Biological Center in nearby Irvington. It offered nothing relating directly to her college education or her business experience, but the work intrigued her.

It involved working for Dr. Leslie Dunn, a noted cancer researcher who had organized a staff of biologists and geneticists who were trying to identify the lethal gene that leads to the development of cancer. Among other activities, the search was based on statistical studies of a laboratory of 7,000 mice and Jan was responsible for documenting the statistics and for the breeding of the mice. An identification system was utilized that enabled her to select individual mice by several classifications and to provide them to requests from cancer research laboratories all over the world.

She also maintained historical statistical data on the mouse colony which was also distributed. When mice were requested from foreign laboratories she would select the classifications and put the mice in a shipping container with a potato for food and moisture and drive it to the overseas air terminal at LaGuardia airport.

Upon Dr. Dunn’s death, the laboratory was moved to Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan and continued under the direction of Dr. Dorothea Bennett, an associate of Dr. Dunn. Janice’s responsibilities were expanded to write reports, including the preparation and distribution of topical “white papers” covering findings of the research staff. She continued her association with the laboratory until it was offered more attractive funding by a large university in Texas, but she opted to remain in Tarrytown rather than move.

Although she did not miss the daily commute to Manhattan, Janice found that she had more than enough free time to devote to her interests in tennis, gardening and sewing. An opening in a travel agency located five minutes from home filled the bill and she was able to become an effective agent within several months. She also was able to take advantage of offers from organizations that found themselves under-booked and would provide bottom dollar enticements such as a one-week cruise to Bermuda for $300 for a couple.

The next few years were filled with many trips to all the major countries of Europe. What Janice was really waiting for was the opportunity to visit Africa to fulfill a lifelong interest in animals. It did not arise until 1991 after both she and her husband had decided to retire and had moved to Williamsburg. They managed to take four safaris over the next several years, living sometimes at lodges located in game preserves or in tents out in the African bush and view lions, hippos, rhinos and elephants close up from the safety of a safari van.

Just when her family concluded that she was really ready to stay at home and start to play tennis again, to garden and to sew, she announced that she was going to volunteer at Colonial Williamsburg. Among several assignments, she was asked to convert 3,500 items that constituted the collection of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum from a file card base to a computer base. She finally concluded her volunteer activities by conducting an inventory of the Carter’s Grove Mansion furnishings before it was closed and sold to a private owner.

She was preceded in death by her son, Steven D. Cookingham; father, Donald V. Bauder; and mother, Mildred Boysen Saile Bauder.

Janice is survived by her husband, Robert A. Cookingham, to who she was married for 62 years; son, Jim Cookingham and his wife Jill; grandsons, Wesley Cookingham and his wife Amber and Michael Cookingham; daughter, Susan Finn, her husband Kevin and their twin daughters Elizabeth and Caroline Finn; great-grandchild, Kayleigh Marie Cookingham; sister, Marcie Powell and her husband Ron; and nephews, David, Andrew and Brian.

The family will celebrate her life at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like you to consider making a donation to CurePSP in Jan’s name.

Please leave online condolences for the family at Nelsen Funeral Home.

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