Donald Jack Cook, 95, a resident of Wilsonville, Oregon, passed away on June 24th with family by his side at the Marquis Assisted Living facility in Tualatin, Oregon. Don was born on May 26, 1927, in Pendleton to former Umatilla County judge D. R. “Sam” and Gertrude M. Cook. A fifth-generation Oregonian, Don’s great-great grandfather, Isaac, and great-grandfather, Francis, immigrated to Oregon in 1845 on the Oregon trail from Springfield, Missouri. Don was raised on a wheat and cattle ranch and attended grade school in Helix, Oregon and graduated from Pendleton High School in 1945. He served in the United State Navy from June 1945 to August 1946 as a Seaman First Class aboard the battleship USS West Virginia in the Pacific Theater. Don attended Oregon State College (now University) and graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Agronomy) and was a member of the agriculture honorary Alpha Zeta. He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and served its chapter president. That same year Don married Lillian Helen Cook in Pendleton whom he had first met when he was in the second grade, and she was in the first grade, at Helix Grade School. They shared the next 69 years together until she passed away in 2019.
Don was employed by Pendleton Grain Growers (PGG) for his entire 42-year career serving in various roles and leadership capacities. He started in 1950 in Hermiston as retail sales, fields sales, retail store and feed mill manager. In 1960 he was the manager of the then state-of-the-art custom feed mill “Feedville” during its startup period through 1964. That year he became the manager of the new branch in Milton-Freewater. In 1967 Don became the manager of the grain division in Pendleton followed by promotion to General Manager in 1971 which he held until he retired.
After retirement, Don’s business and leadership experience took him and Helen to the former Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Lithuania as part of the Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA) working with local farmers to create farmer-owned cooperatives similar to PGG after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its collective farms.
Don was committed to the State of Oregon, Umatilla County and the communities he lived in as exemplified by his extensive service and community activities. A sampling of the organizations he served include; Hermiston Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce, Pendleton Rotary Club, Umatilla County United Good Neighbors and various agriculture-related advisory boards. Don was a member of the Episcopal church and served as a vestryman, lay reader, senior warden, and in Pendleton, treasurer.
Don served as chair of the Umatilla County Budget Committee, chair of the Associated Oregon Industries, board of directors of the State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF), director of the Oregon business council, OSU foundation trustee, director of Oregon Corporation for Affordable Housing, and was a Pendleton Foundation trustee. He served as Queen and Court director, Indians director and as president of the Pendleton Round-Up Association. He was named Pendleton’s First Citizen in 1988. Don was an avid golfer and enjoyed skiing with his children and grandchildren.
Don was preceded in death by his wife, Helen and his parents and grandparents. He is survived by his children; Steve Cook (Judy), West Linn, Oregon and Sally Harpst (Mark), Kansas City, Missouri; grandchildren, Aaron (Chelsea) Cook, Lauren Cook, and Kathryn Garrett (Steven), Brian and Kevin (Stefan) Thompson; great-grandchildren Konnor, Kolton, and Bryson Thompson, and Kepler Cook and five nieces and nephews.
There will be a private family burial at Olney Cemetery followed by a Celebration of Life service at 12:00 PM noon, Saturday, July 16th, at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Pendleton. A reception will follow in the Crysler Parish Hall. Memorials may be sent to the Pendleton Foundation Trust, P.O Box 218 Pendleton, Oregon, or to a memorial of your choice.