By Brett Cooke
Nancy Cooke de Herrera, an inveterate traveler, began her next journey February 28, 2013, with her children present in Beverly Hills to offer a peaceful farewell. She enjoyed a life sufficiently full to require three autobiographies: All You Need Is Love: An Eyewitness Account of When Spirituality Spread from the East to the West, 2003), Never Tango with a Stranger: Love in Peron’s Argentina (2008), and Around the World with Nancy Cooke (in preparation).
Born in Oakland, April 12, 1922, the daughter of Edward Irving Veitch and Marie Beatrice Morledge, Nancy attended Piedmont High School with her lookalike sisters, Ardagh Marie Kistler and Doryce Lorillard Hills Wells, then Stanford University.
In 1942 she married Richard Alexander Cooke, Jr., with whom she raised three sons, Richard Alexander Cooke III, Starr Edward Cooke, and Leighton Brett Cooke, while living in Hawaii. They were divorced in 1951.
Subsequently Nancy married Luis Alberto de Herrera and moved to Buenos Aires, where they bore a daughter, Maria Luisa de Herrera. After Luis’ untimely death in 1955, she founded a public relations firm in San Francisco.
Selected in 1956 as the US Ambassadress of Fashion, she travelled the major capitals of the world on tours organized by the United States Information Agency. Later, at the invitation of the Kremlin, Nancy led a delegation of San Francisco businesswomen to the USSR. She toured the United States, lecturing on the fashions and cultures of the world.
In 1962, Nancy visited many of the holy men of India, an experience that changed her life. Upon her return to California she married Morton Barrows Jackson (whom she divorced in 1975) and moved to Los Angeles, where she was one of the first American students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation. She introduced TM to much of the Americas.
In 1968 she studied in India’s Valley of the Saints and became an independent teacher of meditation. Among her classmates were the Beatles, who immortalized her and her son Rik in “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.” These were the first of 40 trips to India, a country she loved.
Nancy taught TM to the end of her life. Hundreds of students, many notables of film and music, visited her house in Beverly Hills for instruction. Readers were moved by the account of her Indian “spiritual journey in self discovery” (Dominick Dunne).
Nancy was a fully supportive mother; she encouraged her children them to develop unique lifestyles. She provided a home to many friends, who spanned the world; she had an address book for each continent. Long active with the Colleagues, one of Southern California’s most prominent charities, Nancy was a major supporter of Molokai’s Hui Ho’olana educational center, where a building has been erected in her name.
Nancy is survived by her four children and two sisters, and two brothers-in-law, Herbert Gray Hills, Jr. and Henry Blackmer Kistler, as well as four grandchildren and three great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. Her ashes will be deposited in Buenos Aires, Molokai, and Piedmont, California.
In lieu of sending flowers, Nancy’s family suggests that memorials be made to Hui Ho’olana (PO Box 280, Kualapuu, HI 96757; http://huiho.org/contact.php).