Carolyn M. “Cookie” Bodish

Frost: a threshold we cross again and again in the natural seasons and cycles of life. For many years on cold fall mornings, Cookie would call in friends, kids, and grandkids to work the cider press. According to the lore, apples should be picked at first frost—it’s when the harvest is ripe and sweet. But before a tree can bear fruit, of course, it has to grow.


Carolyn Martin was born beautiful, but her name didn’t quite stick. The story goes that a neighbor came over to meet her and said, “You look just like a little cookie!” So it was “Cookie” that stuck. She grew up with her parents Viola (Meyer) and Arnold, sister Marilyn (Maggie) and brothers Arnold Jr. and Donald (Donnie) in Dubuque, where she slept beneath a poster of Elvis Presley taped to the shared bedroom ceiling. When she was 14 years old, she got a job at Kresge’s 5 & 10¢ store where she worked the soda fountain and dressed the windows. One July day in 1958, Paul Bodish rode up on his ‘57 BSA and, enamored by her beauty, asked “You wanna ride?” She hopped on for a magical, winding trip that would last for 61 years. 


Some apples are ripe by July, but they’re far from the sweetest—it’s patience that gets you the sweet ones. Cookie was a creative visionary. By 16, she was so good at trimming windows that Kresge’s had sent her off to Cedar Rapids to help open a new store. While she was away, Paul sat in Eagle Point Park and wrote her letters. When he finally picked her up again, he pulled her ring out of the glove box and tossed it into her lap. “See if this fits,” he said. At 17, she married him. Paul had already saved enough money to buy their first home on Garfield, near the river. Their love began to bear fruit. 


To create something good that lasts, there is always work involved. Plucking every apple from every tree in the yard was just one of many ways that Cookie taught the people around her to engage with community and invite each other in. She donated her labor to every church she ever attended, taught Sunday school, led troops of Boy and Girl Scouts, and tended gardens at the Dubuque Arboretum. She took her children to visit the elderly in nursing homes on Sundays—they brought baskets of fruit to share. She volunteered at the Rescue Mission for years. Honest and open, she was known for welcoming neighbors, strangers and the down-and-out to her family’s supper table. She accepted everyone, even those she disagreed with—but she never failed to make her own convictions known.


Cookie had her first baby at 18 years old. Over the next 12 years, 8 more were born. Each day for decades, Cookie woke up at the crack of dawn to get everyone ready for the day. She packed lunches for Paul, Daniel (Danny), Theresa (Teri), Robert (Bobby), Barbara (Barbie), William (Billy) Kathleen (Kathie), Rebecca (Becky), Joy, and Timothy (Timmy). Yes, she cooked—and she also cleaned the house, sewed clothes, quilted and crocheted blankets, washed and ironed laundry, healed ailments, watered and weeded a half-acre garden, and helped with homework… from 9 different grades. 


A tough and nurturing mother, Cookie never complained about her work. If she started something, she saw it through. She had a rock-solid work ethic and a sense of duty that could never be subverted. In cider-making, she’d fill up tubs of water with the garden hose, where each and every apple was washed by hand before getting cut and cored for the press. When other people complained about the frigid water or the chill in the air, Cookie just kept on washing apples. 


She was strong and versatile. In her youth she raced motorcycles, and always loved riding with Paul, regardless of the weather. In the last year of her life, they rode together through Eagle Point Park every day—and sometimes multiple times a day—to spend time with the birds, the deer, and the river. They spent every season together. Cookie was committed to her relationships: she never quit a journey just because there were rocks along the way. Her marriage and many, many friendships lasted literally a lifetime.


After the apples were washed, cut and cored, they were ready to go into the press. Everyone took turns dropping apples in and cranking the flywheel on the cider press—it was manual, the old-fashioned kind. Although Cookie was modest and respected tradition, she also had an adventurous spirit. She rode with Paul to Canada, Mexico, and many states, and traveled with others to places including Colorado, Washington, and even Jamaica. 


A cider press does its job methodically. It grinds the apples up and drops the pulp into a wooden basket. When it’s full, the pulp is pressed inside the basket and the fresh, foamy juice flows down through a spout into a bucket. It takes a full autumn day to complete the process when you start with five trees. But just because you’re organized and working hard doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. Cookie snuck in little tastes of apple while she worked. She always chose delicious work—the kind that fulfilled her. She tended flower beds that completely surrounded her property. She pressed the flowers and preserved them; and she was a floral designer for over 40 years. She and Paul opened the Trailside Cafe together, where they fed hungry mouths and made friends who are still friends today. You really do reap what you sow, and Cookie was blessed for knowing it.


Aside from feeding patrons at the restaurant, Cookie made sure her family was well-fed. She canned jams and jellies, soups, stewed tomatoes, chili, pickles, veggies and more. Her kids remember a pantry lined with hundreds of jars that would nourish them all year long…and she canned the cider, too. The juice was collected and heated up over a fire outside, and then poured into rows of glittering, clean jars. The caps were screwed on and sealed, and there was cider all through the winter. There was plenty to share. 


It may sound like Cookie was too busy to possibly add anything else. But she still made time to practice her faith deeply and study the Bible extensively. She nurtured individual relationships with her children, and each of her many grandchildren. She remembered birthdays and anniversaries, wants and needs. When others found good fortune or achieved their goals, Cookie was never jealous; instead she celebrated proudly alongside them. Putting others first was not a question—Cookie sold the accordion she once played to buy a guitar for Paul and was rewarded with a lifetime surrounded by music. Her beauty was always obvious on the outside, but it shone from within as well.


In her autumn years, Cookie fought Alzheimer’s disease. She approached it with tenacity and curiosity. In the early stages, she laughed when little things were forgotten or misspoken. She learned and tried new tactics all the time to improve her condition. She took walks in nature, watching birds like she always did, and experimented with different medications, herbs and memory games. Even in the later stages, she never lost the dignity and grace with which she met all the adversities of life.


Patience, peace and loving bonds bring a life you can savor, like warm apple cider on a cold winter day. On October 2, 2020, she laid cozy under her mother’s heirloom quilt, listening to the gospel by Elvis. With Paul’s hand in hers, she passed away peacefully as the first frost crystallized on the plants outside. This is the beginning of a new season—without our matriarch in body, but with all her lessons in our hearts. 


Cookie was preceded in death by her parents Arnold and Viola (Meyer), her sister Marilyn (Maggie), her brothers Arnold (Junior), Donald (Donnie), nieces Debbie, Sherry and Vicky Martin, nephew Ronnie Jo Bryson, sisters-in-law Carol Martin and Sue Martin, and her grandson Joseph Kazmierczak.


She is survived by her husband Paul, 22 grandchildren, one great-grandson, a great-granddaughter on the way, and her own nine children: Daniel (Carol Wieland) (Danny; Hammond, WI); Theresa (Teri; Maquoketa, IA), Robert (Susan) (Bobby; Garnavillo, IA), Barbara (Barbie; Buffalo, NY), William (Molly Noonan) (Billy; Dubuque, IA); Kathleen (Kathie; St. John); Rebecca (Becky; Dubuque, IA); Joy (Darrell Mayne) (Dubuque, IA); and Timothy (Alisha Lust) (Timmy; Baxter, IA).


A service will be held on Saturday, October 10, 2020 in the Riverfront Pavilion at Eagle Point Park. Friends may call from 1:00 to 4:00 PM, with prayer and a reading at 3:30 PM. 


In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Dubuque Rescue Mission, the Northeast Iowa Council on Aging, and Hospice of Dubuque. The family extends its infinite gratitude to Hospice of Dubuque and the Northeast Iowa Council on Aging for their friendship, guidance and compassionate care.


            Online condolences for Cookie’s family may be left at

Celebration of Life

Eagle Point Park Riverfront Pavilion
2601 Shiras Avenue, Dubuque, Iowa, 52001
October 10th, 2020 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Prayer and Scripture Service

Eagle Point Park Riverfront Pavilion
2601 Shiras Avenue, Dubuque, Iowa, 52001
October 10th, 2020 at 3:30 PM

14 comments on “Carolyn M. “Cookie” Bodish
  1. Michelle Koob says:

    My condolences for this tremendous loss. Cookie was kind and generous to me and everyone around her. I will never forget her.
    Much love to you all.

  2. Jackie and Frank Meyer says:

    God bless you cookie. I know God will be welcoming you with open arms. You were a good friend and will be missed.

  3. My friend Joy my sympathy to you and your family. It’s so hard to lose your Mom. You will bre in my thoughts and prayers

  4. Dave Duve says:

    What a great woman. She will be missed for sure.

  5. Bob and Grade Bodish says:

    Paul, our deepest sympathies to you and the Bodish family.

  6. Len and Holly Ronek says:

    Our deepest sympathy at the loss of your precious Mom. She was a wonderfully nice person. May she Rest In Peace.

  7. Ann Behan says:

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your wife/mother! I grieve with you but I rejoice with Cookie as she has joined my husband Joe walking on streets of gold and basking in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I will forever be grateful to Cookie & her family for bringing Joe & I to the Lord 44 years ago! Because of her witness, I have that Blessed Hope of once again seeing my husband as well as my Mom & Dad when I leave the cares of this world behind!

  8. Paul and Family was so sorry to hear of Cookies passing, you have our deepest sympathy.

  9. Kim "Sweetums" Weires and Rodney says:

    Cookie made us feel like we were her kids too. She was such a neat lady and I’m positive she is at home in total awe with God and Jesus!

  10. Dick & Jan Schmitt says:

    Dick and I were so saddened to hear of Cookies passing. Please remember we will keep you ,Paul, and your family in our prayers.

  11. Jane Jackson says:

    Paul and family;
    Sorry to hear about Cookie. Will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  12. Monica, Sara, Curtis, Paul and Abi Gruber says:

    Paul and Family – We’re so saddened to hear of your loss. Please accept our deepest sympathies. You’re in our thoughts and prayers.

  13. John A. Baule says:

    I was so sorry to learn from Zona about Cookie’s death. My Mother was always so proud of all that Cookie accomplished, from family, to so many causes in Dubuque, as am I. My sympathy to Paul and all the family, but please take solace in the wonderful life shared for so many years.

  14. Carol Harpenau says:

    Paul I am so sorry for your loss. I have tried to contact you Hope you are ok

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