GOLDTHWAITE – Services for Bernice Mills Cooksey Wiley, 92, are set for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at First United Methodist Church – Goldthwaite. Burial will follow at Oak Grove Cemetery in Mullin.
Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, at Stacy-Wilkins Funeral Home, 1415 Parker Street.
She died Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, at Kingsland Hills Care Center, in Kingsland, where she had resided since 2015. She will be remembered for her wisdom, quick wit, laughter and resolve in the face of hardships large and small.
Bernice Elaine was born Oct. 4, 1925, in Cross Cut, Brown County, Texas, the third and youngest child of Robert L. and Lillie Chambers Mills.
Dec. 1, 1942, with World War II in full swing, on the night gas rationing began in the U.S., 17-year-old “Bennie” was introduced to Bill C. Cooksey, also 17, from Mullin, on a blind date. The attraction was immediate, even though Bennie’s date was Bill’s best friend, and Bill was matched with Bennie’s best friend.
In the spring of 1943, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marines and went off to war. Bennie graduated from Zephyr High School, salutatorian of the class. She attended John Tarleton Junior College for one year, earning a certificate of business, qualifying her as a bookkeeper.
Bill and Bennie were married Jan. 18, 1947, at the First Methodist Church in Brownwood. She was his soul mate and a class act in her role as “Bill’s wife,” by his side in every change, move, crisis, fortune and misfortune of his 47-year law enforcement career.
Bill died April 27, 2000. Bennie will be buried beside him.
Bennie and Bill were parents to six children, all of whom survive: Eric Cooksey, and wife Beverly, of Sanderson; Candace Cooksey Fulton, of San Angelo; Billie Cooksey Brandenburg and husband, Charles, of Denton; Terrell Cooksey and wife Anne-Charlotte Patterson of Austin; Leslie Cooksey Sparkman and husband John of Odessa; and Wayland Cooksey and wife Roxanne of San Angelo.
Survivors also include a brother, Willis Grigsby Mills; nine grandchildren, Travis Watson, Tyler Watson, Meagan Cooksey Martinez, Jordan Walden, Terrell Fulton, Luke Sparkman, Lily Sparkman, Leah Sparkman, and Jack Wayne Cooksey; and three great-granddaughters, Kristena Watson, Evanni Cooksey and Kylah Watson.
On July 3, 2004, Bennie married MT Wiley, who had been a high school friend of Bill’s and served on the same ship with him in the Merchant Marines. Mr. Wiley resides at Kingsland Hills Care Center and is in very frail health.
Bennie was preceded in death by her sister Mildred Mills Jenkins, and her husband, Herman; her sister-in-law, Jean Powell Mills; and her brothers-in-law and their wives, Jack and June Roberts Cooksey, Tom and “Pug” Roberts Cooksey, and Max and Sue Powell Cooksey.
Though throughout her life Bennie worked at a number of jobs, her true avocation was making the Cooksey household a home, employing her special brand of creativity, resourcefulness, and willingness to fall in love with every place the family settled – Llano, Hamilton, Gatesville, Waco and Sanderson, Bryan and Odessa.
In 1994, Bennie and Bill both retired from Odessa College and moved to Mullin.
Bennie supported Bill through every career move and she encouraged their children to follow their dreams and grow their gifts. She helped each child pack for their life adventures, but was the happiest when all were “back home” gathered ’round the dinner table.
However meager the groceries, Bennie could find a way to stretch what was there to feed an extra guest or two. Diners were nourished not only by the tasty meals she prepared, but also by the lively dinner conversations and great stories told round the table. Her children’s contemporaries might also expect their grammar to be corrected – something a number of them thanked her for years later.
With an 18-year age range between her youngest and oldest, Bennie became good at multi-tasking, even before it was vogue. She could rock and calm a crying baby while helping the older ones with their homework. If all children could have a mother who read to them with the same devotion and expression as Bennie read to her children, the world would be a happier place.
Wherever the Cookseys lived, there was an open invitation for neighbors to come and visit, have a glass of tea or cup of coffee. Bennie had a delightfully sharp wit, an enormous appreciation for life and a strong unwavering faith, declaring almost daily, “This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad.”