Cudmore: John Cook loved basketball, airplanes, singing and sledding


John Cook loved playing basketball for the St. John’s Club and for Amsterdam High School coach John Varsoke.

One day in 1953 when he was 17, Cook was making great shots, incredible shots in basketball practice at Wilbur Lynch High School. One of his brothers appeared and told him not to shower but head home as quickly as possible. When Cook arrived there he found his mother, Mabel Morley Cook, in tears as his father had died.

“I’m sure all those good shots were from my father,” Cook said.

His father was carpet weaver Arthur Cook, who came from Kidderminster, England, as did a number of Amsterdam’s English immigrants, to work at Mohawk Carpet Mills, headed by an English immigrant family named Shuttleworth.

The Cooks lived on East Main Street, near the mills and close to what was Coessens Park. The family nickname was “Cookie.”

John Cook was about 7 years old when he would sit with this father on their front steps in the warm weather. When the older gentleman produced two nickels from his pocket, John knew what to do. He took the nickels and ran to nearby Walt’s Tavern, which sold popsicles. John bought two root beer popsicles with the nickels and ran back so he and his father could enjoy them.

Arthur Cook played trombone in the Mohawk Mills band and practically the whole family sang in the Mohawk Mills Chorus, which years later became the Mohawk Valley Chorus. John had two brothers, David and Ralph, and two sisters, Louie and Muriel.

The Cook brothers also sang in the St. Ann’s Episcopal Church boys’ choir and when their voices changed they joined their father, who sang bass in the men’s choir. In the summer they would roller skate from the East End to the church on Division Street west of downtown.

John recalled that at the Christmas Eve service all the choirs had to memorize the entrance hymn. The choir director did not want the distraction of choir members reading lyrics as they were processing into the sanctuary holding hymnals and lighted candles.

John remembered that the circus came to Coessens Park when he was a child. His brother Ralph, who died two years ago, watered the elephants. John used to ride his sled in the winter down the very steep Vrooman Avenue. His brother Ralph stopped traffic on East Main Street so John could safely cross the busy street on his sled.

John worked for a time after high school in the printing operation at Mohawk Carpet Mill, supervised by Al Zepperi.


Then, as many local men did, Cook served in the Air National Guard in Glenville, a unit commanded by Col. Lionel Fallows of Amsterdam.

Cook wanted to serve in the regular Air Guard but by then was married to Carol Mae Wood Cook. She encouraged him to enlist, saying his friends would help her maintain their home. One man in particular, Durward DeGroff, was very diligent in keeping the Cook’s lawn mowed.

Cook had a technical job in the Air Guard, working on jet engines and then piston-driven engines. His first overseas duty was as a flight engineer on a transport plane that delivered a cannon to Vietnam. On the return flight they took the bodies of six soldiers back to California.

Cook toured the world for over 30 years, including flights to the North and South Poles.

His wife Carol Mae died in 2012. They had been living in Rotterdam and had no children. They sang together in the Mohawk Valley Chorus. John moved to the Eddy facility in Niskayuna several years ago.

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