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Pentagon Bids Farewell to 'Doc'

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2002 – Defense secretaries come and go, but the unofficial "Mayor of the Pentagon" was always there. David O. Cooke, known by his initials as 'Doc,' was an institution.

During his 45 years in the sprawling military headquarters known as 'the building,' Doc served under 15 defense secretaries -- 16 if you count Donald H. Rumsfeld twice. After retiring from the Navy as a captain, Doc joined the ranks of the Defense Department's civilians for a second career serving his country.

Doc was the Defense Department's highest-ranking civil servant. At age 82, he was still on the job as the Pentagon's director of administration and management and director of Washington Headquarters Services.

On June 22, Doc died in the saddle, so to speak, as many who knew him would have expected. He died as a result of injuries sustained in a June 6 car accident while on his way to a nearby conference.

This morning, Secretary of State Colin Powell, along with his deputy Richard Armitage, former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, former Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy de Leon, and other senior defense officials were among the several hundred people who bid Doc a final farewell at a memorial service in the Pentagon's central courtyard.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Doc was laid to rest Wednesday with full military honors in Arlington Cemetery on a hillside overlooking the Pentagon, "the institution he loved and cared for more than 40 years."

Doc wasn't a medical man, Rumsfeld noted, but "no doctor could diagnose the problems and prescribe the treatments and cure the ills of this building and its inhabitants on a daily basis as he could. He kept it all running."

Rumsfeld credited the champion of both career civilians and the military with saving countless lives on Sept. 11. "Without the steel walls, the Kevlar cloth, the blast- resistant windows that Doc insisted upon throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, many more than 184 lives would have been lost that day."

When the terrorist attack happened, he said, "Doc was right there, aiding the rescue workers, assisting with recovery operations, and later remembering those who died in the service of their country.

"It's one of life's ironies that he who withstood a planned attack on the heart of the nation's military establishment fell victim to an accident on a peaceful day in rural Virginia," Rumsfeld said. "But then, Doc knew better than anyone that we must be prepared for the unexpected.

"Thankfully," he noted, "Doc lived to see all but the final touches of the Pentagon restoration. When completed, its new front facing the hills where heroes lie will stand like a silent sentry to the memories of the man who served so well."

Along with the VIPs, the mourners included Pentagon employees of all levels, for Doc was known by all for his humor and his fair and sympathetic support. Pentagon historian and 30-year colleague Alfred Goldberg said Doc "didn't walk on water, but he was a very fine swimmer."

The consummate professional and model public servant was as beloved as he was successful, Goldberg said. "Doc was a man of first-class character and first-class temper.

"His rare combination of qualities and long tenure made him the famously successful Mayor of the Pentagon," he said. "In the end, he became almost synonymous with the establishment he served, a ubiquitous presence, an organizational memory and an institution in himself."

Goldberg then paid tribute to a woman who served at Doc's side as his de facto chief of staff for 41 years, Bernice M. Bowers. She was "the formidable nerve center of the large establishment" over which Doc presided, Goldberg said. "He would have wanted her to be recognized as his strong right hand during all these years."

Along with a bouquet of red roses, one for each year of service, Bowers received a standing ovation from the government leaders and Pentagon employees.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDavid O. Cooke, known as 'Doc,' sits at his desk surrounded by some of the 15 defense secretaries he would ultimately serve during his 45-year career at the Pentagon. From the left in the 19-- photo are secretaries William Perry, Frank Carlucci, Harold Brown, Caspar Weinberger, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliot Richardson, Melvin Laird, Clark Clifford and James Schlesinger. Secretaries Cooke served, but not pictured, were Neil McElroy, Thomas Gates, Robert McNamara, Dick Cheney, Les Aspin and William Cohen. DoD Photo.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDavid O. Cooke, DoD's director of administration and management, speaks at the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Cooke is credited with saving lives, because he insisted on installing steel beams, Kevlar cloth and blast-resistant windows during renovations in the 1980s and 1990s. DoD Photo.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDavid O. Cooke retired as a Navy captain in 1968. His military career included service aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania during World War II. DoD Photo.  
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