Bob Cook, 68, passed away Friday, March 23, 2001, after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as "ALS" or Lou Gehrig's disease, at his home in Lodi, Calif.
A memorial, The "Gathering of Friends and Family," was scheduled for Monday, April 2, at Lake Comanche in Ione, Calif.
Born to H.P. and Jewel Cook on July 10, 1932 in Lamb County Texas, Cook attended college at Texas Tech in Lubbock. A PRCA member since 1949, he was an all-around hand, competing in four events. His career was full of buckles and awards in all events except steer roping.
Highlights included 1958 Year-End All-Around Champion for Christensen Brothers Rodeo; 1965 All-Around winner at the first major rodeo held in Honolulu, Hawaii, and his 1966 National Finals Rodeo debut in team roping. It was at the NFR that he rode a 3-year-old mare named Chick A Luck, which went on to produce an NCHA Non-Pro Classic Champion, along with other cutters and rodeo horses and his last rope horse, Rem A Luck.
Cook was a multi-faceted asset to the rodeo industry, holding contestant, announcer, secretary, rodeo producer and stock contractor cards. He started with Christensen Brothers in the 1950s as general manager and secretary, leaving in 1965. He went on to produce rodeos under the name Arena Productions. Then in 1971, a partnership with Cook, Jack Roddy and Jack Sparrowk formed Rodeo Stock Contractors.
Cook married Nancy Pennington in December 1958 and they had two beautiful daughters, Cathy Cook and Bobbie Cook-Pearle. He produced rodeos with the help of his family; wife Nancy served as secretary and daughters Cathy and Bobbie performed opening ceremonies and handled the timing duties, including each working two NFRs. Bob and Nancy were Gold Card members of the PRCA. Roddy and Sparrowk later sold their interest back to Cook when they found other commitments and business interests were too heavy to remain involved.
Cook also served as a PRCA director for several years as the stock contractor representative. He was instrumental in getting Black Velvet involved with the sport of rodeo. Cook was most proud of Oscar, 1972-1973 Reserve Bucking Bull of the Year, and one of the stars of the movie "The Great American Cowboy."
Oscar's Velvet, offspring of Oscar, went on to win the 1979 Reserve title and then Bucking Bull of the Year after being sold to Christensen Brothers. Cook was also instrumental in the development of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Champions in Colorado Springs, and helped bring Oscar there as the first live animal on display at the hall. Both bulls, Oscar and Oscar's Velvet, retired to the hall.
Another unique development was his expansion into the international market. In 1977, he started American Rodeo Show Ltd., in which he was responsible for getting the livestock and crew overseas.
He produced rodeos in Taiwan in 1977, Belgium in 1979 and Japan in 1982 with two separate trips totaling four months. His business outside of rodeo also grew when he became a successful real estate broker in the 1960s. He had an office in Oakdale, Calif., for a decade and then opened an office near his new home in Clements, Calif.
Cook married Jan Bradshaw on Feb.14, 1999. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Nancy, in 1993, and his parents. He is survived by daughters, Cathy, Folsom, Calif., and Bobbie Cook-Pearle, son-in-law Larry Pearle, and grandchildren Cody and Hailey Pearle, Clements, Calif.
Kathy Daughn, cutting horse trainer from Weatherford, Texas, who traveled a lot with the Cook family and lived at their home in Clements, referred to Cook as "a father figure" who loved his family, and was a man of character and great drive.
"He was a man who did things his way and got the best out of life," she said.
Jack Roddy, Antioch, Calif., was a friend for 50 years, a fellow competitor and business partner.
"Love and dedication to the sport of rodeo was one of Bob's top priorities, next to his family," said Roddy, who recalled one time that the RSC Rodeo Co. sent 11 bulls to the Finals. "All of us lost a real friend."
Bob Tallman, a famed professional rodeo announcer from Weatherford, Texas, who knew Cook for 27 years, said, "Bob Cook created as much change in the rodeo business as any one man has in its history."
Tallman, who remembered that he met Cook on Feb. 5, 1974, started out breaking down tires on the cattle truck and progressed to all the duties that go on "behind the scenes" of producing a rodeo.
"He would not let me announce a rodeo for nearly a year," Tallman said. "He said 'Until you know this business, you don't have the right to hold that microphone. You watch Lex, you watch Mel Lambert, you listen and you pay attention.'
"I spent more time with that man in the last 27 years than with my own father and he never quit teaching, training, and pushing. He had a family that did not know the word 'quit.' "
Cook's way with people, according to Tallman, was un-orthodox, but very effective.
"If you were rolling , going and successful, he wouldn't say jack to you, but if you were failing and he knew it, he would get on you and rub it in worse to try and make you try harder," he said.
"Easy to work with Ñ never Ñ the toughest human being I ever tried to please in the world. He did some amazing things. You either loved him or hated him and I had many days of both. Bob Cook Ñ he created me Ñ point blank. He is every day in my life, until the day I die."
Bob Feist, a Professional rodeo announcer and friend from Lodi, Calif., met Cook as a competitor and later was hired by Cook to announce some of his first PRCA rodeos with the RSC Rodeo Co.
"He had a lot of foresight as to where rodeo should be and where it should go," he said. "He was probably way ahead of his time. So many people got starts with him in the rodeo business. When you worked for him, you did it right.
"He never asked you to do anything he hadn't done himself and that he didn't know how to do. The family participation he was able to obtain through his wife and daughters showed the belief in the man, and the following he could have, and the leadership he could have, not only with other people, but with his own family."
Larry Mahan, a six-time all-around champion and friend from Guffey, Colo., met Cook while still a teenager at pro rodeos in Oregon. At that time, Cook was working for Christensen Brothers as the secretary and general manager.
"Cook would always let me get on as many as I wanted to for $5 per head," he said. "He really helped me a lot. He was like a parent to the young guys who were serious about it."
Lindy Burch, Weatherford, Texas, a cutting horse trainer, was a longtime friend. Burch moved to Clements around 1977 where she met Cook when he sold her some property.
She said, "I knew I had a friend when I met him."
Burch referred to Cook as someone who would take care of you, lending a hand. Even though his size and demeanor were intimidating, she said he was always a teddy bear to her. Burch recalled a time at a cutting in Clements when she lost her famous dog, "Snoopy" and there was a widespread search for her companion.
Burch remembers seeing Cook's van come around the corner and said, "He just held Snoopy up in the driver's window. He didn't even wave us down. He was so proud that he found that dog."
Burch learned a lot from Cook, including the way to keep your word. He helped form her values and live by the "Code of the West," or the "cowboy way," just as he did.
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