Bonzella Burgess Cook, Class of 1954

Bonzella Cook in September, 2013

Bonzella Burgess Cook, September, 2013

Bonzella Cook was born on Feb. 20, 1934, in the home of her Grandmother Sophia Hale Wyatt in Winesap, TN, to parents George Alva and Minnie Alice Wyatt Burgess. She was born during a snow storm and was premature, but she was known for being strong willed and determined and overcame these initial obstacles like many others that came along in her lifetime. She had two brothers, David and Daniel Burgess, whom she cared for after her mother’s death.

She lived in the Vandever Community until age 10 and shared that she was greatly influenced by a special teacher, Ms. Helen Wherle, proudly displaying her framed picture within her home her entire life. Ms. Wherle was the person who suggested Bonzella start school at four years of age, and in true fashion, Bonzella was determined to go, so she walked over a mile to and from school never missing a day.

She moved to Winesap, TN, and finished 8th grade with fond memories of two special teachers, Ms. Myrtle Pugh and Ms. Thelma Edmonds. She walked 1.5 miles just to catch a 6 a.m. bus for two years to attend Cumberland County High School. Because the bus could pick her up at her home, she gratefully transferred to Bledsoe County High school for the following two years and graduated in 1951. She was always proud to say she never missed a day of school including her nursing school and made sure all her future students knew that.

She went to Knoxville General Hospital School of Nursing from 1952 to 1955 with her best friend, Polly Whittle, whom she credits for helping her get through the program. She had another year of training in what was called at that time “Premature Nursery” and Emergency Room Nursing. She went on to work in Paducah, KY, at Baptist Hospital for six months and then went to Pineville, KY, to work on the Obstetrics floor for a year. She had to leave when her mother became terminally ill and went back to Crossville to take care of her and the younger brothers. During that time she worked at Cumberland Medical Center.

She married Helpmate Robert Cook on Dec. 3, 1960 until his death on March 1, 1995. She continued to work at Cumberland Medical Center until she was requested to teach a Nursing Tech class and an LPN class in Clay County in Celina, TN, for 18 months. She then taught Practical Nursing at Crossville’s vocational school, Tennessee Technology Center, until she became the Nursing Director. After 35 years, she retired from a career she loved dearly. Bonzella was a true advocate for education and was known for tutoring and mentoring a countless number of students and even opened her home to several of her students if they needed a place to stay. She attended many courses at the University of Tennessee throughout her career and was considered by many to be one of the finest and most respected nurses in Tennessee.

After retirement, she and Polly did some traveling, and she became involved in many activities and hobbies. She once said she felt like she was busier and had less time after retirement than when she was the Director of a school. Cooking, baking, ceramics at the Crossville Senior Center, knitting and growing African Violets and roses were one of many hobbies she developed an expertise in.

She married her second husband, Jack Cresap, on Oct. 25, 2003, and they enjoyed things together like traveling, gardening, general yard work, crafts, her cooking and playing Rummy 500 with friends. Jack died unexpectedly June 4, 2008, from complications of colon cancer surgery. Bonzella considered Jack to be her soulmate and missed him deeply for the remaining days of her life.

She had many friends and continued her busy life filled with hobbies and traveling with her dear friends, Guary and Brenda Wyatt, and their children. She loved this family very much and always considered Guary and Brenda to be her closest family knowing she could depend on them for anything as they were always there for her. She dearly loved their children Jimmy, Becca and Donald and considered them to be her grandchildren. Besides the Wyatt family, Bonzella had many wonderful and caring people in her life with special memories of Polly Whittle, Mary Helen Hamilton and family, Betty Craska, Daniel and Phyllis Burgess and family, Vickie and Eddie Padron, Kathy and Gerry Mackey, Garnett Brooks, Jim Jeffers, Charity and Matthew Walker, Dortha Burgess, Eileen O’Barsky, Bill and Loretta Stanley, Dr. Pribanich and Dr. Simpson.

Bonzella loved her home on Lake Tansi, and they said the very first thing she would do every morning was look out at the water. She was deeply religious and wanted the following words expressed at her funeral service:

“I love the Lord with all my heart, giving my life over to him when I was 12 years old. I’ve made mistakes along the way, but He is a just and faithful God. I am looking forward to being with him in heaven, and I invite all of you to join me. I love you all, and may God bless each and every one of you.” – Bonzella Cook

Funeral services were held Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, from the Chapel of Hood Funeral Home. Bro. Kenneth Norris, Bro. Ted Woody and Bro. Bill Roberts officiated with burial in Wyatt Cemetery. Bro. Ted Woody provided special music. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Crossville Vo-Tech Scholarship Fund for Practical Nursing in her memory.

Hood Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC ( was in charge of the arrangements.

Posted: Monday, November 3, 2014 12:41 pm

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