Phoebe Hearst Cooke, Former CHRB Member, Dies

Grandchild of William Randolph Hearst recalled as advocate of improved racing safety.

San Francisco Bay Area philanthropist Phoebe Hearst Cooke, a former California Horse Racing Board commissioner, died Nov. 18 of pneumonia.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Cooke, 85, a longtime member of the Hearst Corporation board of directors, died at a hospital in Templeton, in Luis Obispo County. Her death came just six months after her twin brother, former Hearst Corp. chairman George Hearst Jr., died.

Dedicated to the equestrian community, she served as a California horse racing commissioner from Oct. 3, 1989, to Dec. 31, 1990.

CHRB Executive Director Kirk Breed was at the time a senior consultant to the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. Responsible for analyzing all California legislation pertaining to horse racing, he recalled working with Cooke.

"She was totally committed to improving safety in horse racing and was the principal advocate for racetrack safety legislation that was passed at that time," said Breed. "She was the mother of the post-mortem program, which was created to better understand the nature of racehorse injuriesa program that has served as a model for the rest of the country. She helped raise the consciousness of horse racing and the board."

According to the Chronicle, she helped found National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy in Woodside, Calif., which provides horse-assisted therapy programs for children and adults with special needs.

Like her brother, Cooke served several decades on the Hearst Corp. board of directors, joining in 1962 and retiring in 1998. She was also a leader in the Hearst Foundation and, for much of her adult life, took pride in her contributions to the charitable organization and in taking after her namesake, great-grandmother Phoebe Apperson Hearst, also a philanthropist.

In 1963, she married a fellow Hearst board member, Amory "Jack" Cooke, who was also vice president and general manager of Hearst Corp.'s Sunical Land & Livestock and San Francisco realties divisions. Amory Cooke died in 2008.

Besides her involvement with the CHRB, she also was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum's Hall of Fame along with her husband.

She had been married once before, to Philip Tovrea Jr., with whom she had a daughter.

Cooke and her brother were born in San Francisco in 1927 to George Hearst Sr. and Blanche Wilbur. They were the first grandchildren of William Randolph Hearst, who had taken over the San Francisco Examiner in 1887 and begun building a global media empire. He died in 1951.

In 2000, Hearst Corp. bought the San Francisco Chronicle and sold the smaller Examiner. It now owns 15 daily newspapers.

Services for Mrs. Cooke will be private. A public memorial is being arranged.

Donations on Mrs. Cooke's behalf can go to the American Red Cross, San Luis Obispo Chapter; the Phoebe A. Hearst Preschool Learning Center in San Francisco; or the Mission San Miguel.