Ralph Joseph Cook of Harwich died at home on Dec. 9, 2022, surrounded by family. The cause, prostate cancer, was confirmed by his wife, Jean. He was 88.
Ralph was born on March 29, 1934 at 6 Mechanic St. in Provincetown. He was the seventh child of Clara and Frank Cook, the original owners of Cookie’s Tap, the celebrated Portuguese restaurant. The family moved to 135 Commercial St., next door to Cookie’s, when Ralph was one.
As a child, Ralph and the other local boys dove off MacMillan Pier and shouted, “Heave a nickel over!” to tourists as they walked off the ferry. The boys would dive under the water to fetch the nickels, stash them in their cheeks, and go back for more.
His father died when Ralph was 12, and he was raised by his mother and her brother Tijo (an abbreviated version of “Uncle Joe” in Portuguese), who could neither hear nor speak but worked for the town for many years.
Ralph left school a year before graduation and joined the Navy at 17 in 1951; he served in the Korean War. Upon his discharge in 1955, he moved to New York City where he lived for two years, was married briefly, and had two children, Robin and Craig. He returned to Provincetown in 1958.
According to David W. Dunlap’s Building Provincetown, “Ralph Cook became the chef in charge of Cookie’s Tap in 1958, adding items like ‘passionate pups’ (hot dogs in hot sauce), while keeping favorites like squid stew, stuffed sea clams, and galvanized tinkers” (the last being marinated baby mackerel).
In 1960, Ralph married Jean Curran (Jennings). He worked as a commercial fisherman for Johnny Silva on the James M. Burke before starting his own business, Busy Bee Cleaning and Painting Service.
Ralph and Jean built a house in Eastham where they lived from 1964 to 1973. Jean became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1969, and Ralph followed suit two years later. They were invited in 1973 to relocate to Martha’s Vineyard, where they helped build a Kingdom Hall and Ralph became an elder in the congregation. They stayed on Martha’s Vineyard until 1978, when they returned to the Cape, settling first in Dennis, then in Harwich. Ralph ran a commercial cleaning business until his retirement in the late 1980s.
Carrying on a long family tradition, Ralph loved to cook. Family and friends enjoyed his meatballs, kale soup, squid stew, and other favorites.
He also loved science fiction, especially the two Star Trek TV series and the spinoff films. Ralph was a devoted if not flamboyant Trekkie. Star Trek reruns were a special pleasure and comfort to him in his last days.
Ralph is survived by his sons and their wives: Craig and Deanette of Sandwich, Ralph Jr. and Susan of Mashpee, Dale and Lelibeth of Yarmouth Port, and David and Candace of Harwich. His brother, Richard Cook, 94, of Lansing, Kans. also survives him, as do his 10 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
Ralph was predeceased by his daughter, Robin Massaro, and by three grandchildren, Thomas and Marissa Cook and Brianna McCarron.
Friends and family are invited to attend a memorial service with a video for Ralph at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 24 at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 316 Old Bass River Road, South Dennis, followed by a gathering with refreshments and remembrances at Tugboats, 11 Arlington St, West Yarmouth. To participate in these events via Zoom, email [email protected]