September 28, 2014 —
Michael Anthony Cooke (center) with sister Geraldine Lee Romero Perez and son Rusty Cooke, 6, at the 21st annual Hart of the West Powwow at William S. Hart Park in Newhall.
Michael Anthony (Mike) Cooke, of Santa Maria, didn't know he had a bunch of half-sisters and -brothers until the summer of 2014 when his fiancee, Newhall native Cathleen (Cat) Shenk Park,
came across a photograph on SCVHistory.com. It had just recently been added in the (ongoing) course of compiling the
genealogy of the direct descendants of Native Americans
who lived in the Santa Clarita Valley prior to European contact in 1769.
The photograph showed the late Chief Charlie Cooke and his cousins, (now Chief)
Ted A. Garcia and Dennis Garcia. Cat saw a resemblance, and knowing Mike had heard stories as a child of long-lost relatives, she scrolled through the listings and found
the name of the man who had
raised Mike — Izzy Cooke (generation 8 in list) — and found photos of Chief Mary Cooke Garcia,
thinking it might be Mike's mother. (It was his grandmother; both were named Mary.)
Cat tracked down Chief Ted Garcia, and that phone call resulted in a private reuniting of the siblings in Santa Maria on Aug. 17, 2014. Then, Mike and Cat and Mike's son
Rusty Cooke, 6, attended the Hart of the West Powwow at William S. Hart Park in Newhall on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, and met more relatives. The rest, as they say...
The history is that back in 1957 when Mike was born, the county limited families on general relief to five children. Any more, said Mike's
newly reaquainted half-sister Geraldine Romero, and a social worker would remove additional children for placement in foster homes. Lucky families managed
to send children away to live with relatives. Such was the case with Mike Cooke, the seventh of Mary Louise Garcia Romero's 10 children.
Mike's mother's mother is Chief Mary Garcia Cooke. Mike was raised by Chief Mary's brother, Isidoro (Izzy) Cooke.
Incidentally ... Mike's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's father's mother's
mother was born at Chaguayabit village (now Castaic Junction) in 1763.