Gold said of Cooksey that he always admired the local retired campground operator for his business acumen, folksy sense of humor, and integrity above reproach. “When Ed gave you his word, it meant something,” Gold wrote for this obituary. “Ed loved to teach young people in his employ, or teenagers who returned year after year with their families for vacation, especially if they had gotten off the track and he thought they might benefit from his straight-talking, no nonsense brand of accountability for their actions.”
Originally located on SR-A1A at what is now Sea Grove on Anastasia Island, Cooksey’s Camping Resort also had a roller skate rink which was open in the evenings and on weekends throughout summer break. Parents dropped off their teenaged sons and daughters knowing that they were in good hands — Ed knew all the local families and wasn’t about to let the kids get into any trouble while they were in his care. Among a lot of other life lessons, Ed made sure the important ones were learned in your dealings with him; lessons like how to have a good time without spending a lot of money, the importance of telling the truth, how to enjoy clean fun with your friends from school, and the value of a banana split from his ice cream parlor at the end of the evening while you were waiting for your parents to pick you up.
Ed Cooksey was outgoing, optimistic, and shared his love for life with everyone he met. He was extra special to those who knew him as “Papa” and “Mr. Ed”.
Ed was born June 6th, 1922 in Jacksonville, FL, to William & Jessie Cooksey. He moved to St. Augustine with his family at the age of 2 and resided here his entire life. He was educated in the public schools of St. Johns County, and at the age of 19 he joined the US Navy serving his country for 6 years. In World War II he participated in major campaigns in the South Pacific aboard the USS Princeton. After his honorable discharge, he attended Stetson University, and then returned to St. Augustine to start his life as a businessman.
His first business venture was a horticulture products business known as Cooksey’s Green Thumb Nurseries. He was the first person to package potting soil in a plastic bag to be sold in retail stores across the nation. While in this business he acquired property at St. Augustine beach where he eventually started Cooksey’s Camping Resort. It was the first campground on Anastasia Island, opening in 1962, and was built with families in mind. The campground expanded over the years to include a local childhood favorite known as Cooksey’s Skate Land. Because of his commitment to the camping industry Ed was elected as President of the Florida State Campground Owner’s Association.
Over the years he served in many political positions including St. Johns County Commissioner (Chairman & State Director), 18 year member of St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Board, Chairman of the St. Johns County School Advisory Board, and was appointed by the Governor to the NE FL Regional Planning Council. He was also involved in many community organizations serving at various levels. He was a Master Mason and member of the Ashlar Lodge.
Ed was a Christian who devoted his life to serving God. For many years he was a member of Ancient City Baptist Church, and served on the Board of Deacons and Trustees. His faith was unwavering no matter what the circumstances.
In 1957 he married Shirley Ann Hartley who became his devoted and loving wife of forty years. Together they had 4 children. After Shirley’s death, God blessed Ed with Jeannette Wells. They were married and lived together as husband and wife during his last 16 years. In addition to his wife Jeannette, he is survived by his children: Linda Prentice (Gregg), Mark Cooksey (Angie), Leigh Ann DePriest (Barry), Marcia Reyes (Richard); 8 grandchildren: Paige, Tiffany, Jamie, Ashley, Drew, Luke, Nicholas, and Zachary. He is also survived by Jeannette’s children: Billy Wells (Tonya), Richard Wells (Velda), Patricia Miles; 6 grandchildren: Jennifer, Martin, Richard Jr, Wesley, Victoria, and Ben, and 17 great-grandchildren.
His family was the love of his life and he will be greatly missed by all.
Burial was at Evergreen Cemetery. Donations may be made in Ed’s name to the church or charity of your choice. Craig Funeral Home Crematory Memorial Park was in charge of arrangements. The family would like to extend their thanks to everyone who showed acts of kindness over the last few months, and also to Community Hospice who took such amazing care of Ed.
Photo credits: © 2015 Historic City News staff photographer