Businessman Richard Cook Celebrates 90th Birthday On Good Friday

Mayor Alice Lucero and Senator Richard Martinez greeting Richard Cook at his birthday celebration in front of Cook's Tru Value on Thursday. Valley Daily Post image

Businessman Richard Cook Celebrates 90th Birthday On Good Friday 

Mayor Issues Proclamation Making March 25, 2016 “Richard Cook Day In Española”

By Robert A. Naranjo

A businessman’s businessman, Richard Cook, turns 90 year’s old, today, Good Friday, March 25, 2016. He was born in Española to Mr. & Mrs. W.P. Cook on today’s date in 1936. He remained in town, even with plenty of opportunities to move from his beloved Española, he never entertained the thought of it. Arguably one of the wealthiest persons in the state, he has always remained a hands-on working manager of all the businesses that bear his name, including the ones that don’t. If a person who did not know him bumped into him at a store, or anywhere, it would not be readily apparent to them that he was wealthier than he looked. And, he has always been that way, just quietly going about his business or, more accurately, businesses.

In an interview with Richard Cook at an early birthday celebration at Cooks Tru Value store in downtown Española, on March 24, the day before his birthday, he was asked what the secret to his success was. Cook responded with a quick answer, “Have everybody love you and get along without any problems of any kind.”

Asked where did it all start, Cook said that, “mother and father starting taking stuff (sand and gravel, the beginning of Española Transit Mix) out of the river and kept it up. Below the bridge (Oñate bridge) by where the Santa Cruz river comes in.” College educated with a degree in business from Denver University, Cook explained how he was sent off to college. He said he was working in sawmill owned by his family located in downtown Española, when his parents, “kicked me out of there and put me in school!” He said the sawmill employed many, many, local people.

His parents ended up sending Cook to Denver University where he majored in business and was active in many university clubs and activities. He returned home and continued helping his parents with the family businesses. Cook said, “We had a group of 60 people, we bought things…and helped each other out.” Asked where this group was from, he said they were “from Denver.”

Richard Cook trained in the US Navy to become a SEAL, but during WW II, they were known as Frogmen. “We worked together as a team and it was a lot of hard training,” Cook remembered. And added, “They would take us a mile out to sea and have us swim back to shore. They would put obstacles in our way, and we had to stay together as a team.” U.S. Navy SEAL, Richard Cook, was stationed in India and China.

Cook was asked about his father, W.P. Cook, from whom Richard Cook naturally got a good part of his business acumen. W.P. arrived here on board the “Chili Line,”or the D&RGNRR. That railroad came into Española in 1880 and lasted until the early 1940’s when it closed operations, and sold for metal. W.P. Cook was the founder of the Española Chamber of Commerce in 1937. Later, the name was changed to the Española Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“Oh, my goodness, my dad and I argued back and forth about homes I had,” Cook remembered. Asked if he ever herded sheep as a young boy, he said, “Sure. We used to herd sheep in the Jemez, around Redondo. We thought it was great fun,” Cook said. The wool from the sheep was sold and shipped out on the Chili Line, he explained.

Cook mentioned that his brother, Tom Cook, “was the leader of Zia,” a contractor with then Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, LASL, now known as LANL.

Richard Cook, has always been benevolent to community causes. And, he has a soft spot in his heart for children. He’s given monetary donations to schools, donated sand for playgrounds, donated to Tony & Peggy’s Suazo’s, “Put a Smile on a Child’s Face” toy giveaway for many years, and the list goes on.

Mayor Alice Lucero, in the Proclamation making March 25, 2016 “Richard Cook Day in the City of Española,” also mentioned his generosity to the area’s children for many years. Following the reading of the reading of the proclamation, Mayor Lucero presented Richard Cook with a “Living Treasure” designation and accompanying Certificate, and a stunningly beautiful, blue glass mantel piece that reflected the day’s sun showing off variations of striking blue colors. City officials present were Councilors Pedro Valdez, Tim Salazar, Interim City Manager Mark Trujillo, and City Clerk Anna Squires. Also, State Senator Richard Martinez, Executive Assistant to County Manager, Joe Lopez and candidate for 1st Judicial District Attorney, Yvonne Chicoine of Santa Fe.

On the day before his birthday, Richard Cook was surrounded by friends and family, including one of his two daughters, Kelly, in front of the hardware store bearing his name that daughter Kelly runs.  It’s likely that it’s one of the first Cook family enterprises dating back to the 1930’s. A block or so east after crossing the Oñate bridge is the site of the start-up of the Española Transit Mix sand and gravel business started by his parents. A few miles south, off SR 30, is the location of the pumice mines that Cook mined using a 1880’s U.S. Mining Law, and sold the pumice to a jeans factory in El Paso, TX for use in whitewashing jeans to give them the popular, used look. And, investment in real estate. These are just the tip of the iceberg of the many, many businesses that Richard Cook has built through the years of successful business ventures that had his golden touch.

Happy 90th Birthday, Mr. Richard Cook, from the Valley Daily Post and all your friends in the beautiful Española Valley.