Joe was born in Kansas City, Mo. on Nov. 16, 1947 to Lewis J. and Roberta L. Foresman Cook. He was the youngest of four children and grew up in Iola. He attended Lincoln Grade School, Iola Junior High, and graduated from Iola High School in 1965. Joe then volunteered for the Navy and served from February 1966-November 1969 aboard the USS Richmond K. Turner and the USS Lyman K. Swenson on the West coast and also 13 months in Vietnam.
Joe was employed for the past 5½ years at Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community as a transportation coordinator. He often called this a “dream job” as he loved the residents as much as they enjoyed his company while being driven to appointments. Prior to that, he was an art teacher at Manhattan High School and Highland Community College in Wamego and also worked at the art department and frame shop at Varney’s Book Store. Joe’s first job when he was seven years old was as a paperboy for the Kansas City Star. From his earnings, he purchased a 1926 Ford Model T and a 1930 Ford Model A coupe, both of which he still owned. His pride and joy was his orange 1973 VW Super Beetle.
Joe was an avid reader, especially of history and art. He loved to draw and had completed nearly 1,400 cartoons and caricatures with funny stories about each character which he kept in scrapbooks. Joe was a blood donor and had donated more than 15 gallons of blood during his lifetime. He enjoyed nature and birds and had canaries, finches, and lovebirds as pets. Joe loved K-State sports and had been a season ticket holder for many years to football, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball.
On Nov. 27, 1970, Joe met the love of his life, Ronda K. Showalter in Chanute. They married on July 21, 1974 in Thayer. and began their wonderful life together. They lived in Emporia and Topeka before moving to Manhattan in 1985. Family and friends admired their love and devotion to each other through the years. Their relationship was based on a special friendship that kept growing stronger every day.
Joe graduated from Emporia State University with a Bachelor’s of Art in history and art in August 1978. He began graduate school at Kansas State University in January 1985, graduating in May 1989 with a Master’s of Fine Arts in ceramics. He then received an additional Bachelor’s of Science in Art Education in May 1991.
He is survived by his wife, Ronda, of the home; a brother: Robert L. Cook and wife, Diane, Kansas City, Mo.; two sisters: Jeanne E. Cook and Nancy M. Martin, both of Shawnee, Ks. and his brothers-in-laws, Joe M. Showalter, Thayer, and Ren M. Showalter and wife, Carrol, Franktown, Colo.; nieces and nephews, John R. Cook and wife, Kelly, Lewis J. Cook, Jeffrey A. Nelson, Lisa A. Everhart and husband, Chad, Michele R. Showalter, Mary E. Osborn, Kristen M. Andrews and husband, Chris, Cortney J. Showalter, and seven great-nieces and nephews.
Joe was preceded in death by his parents and a brother-in-law, Charles M. Showalter.
A Service of Celebration will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 11 at the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Chapel with Pastor Devin Wendt officiating. Graveside services will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at the East Hill Cemetery in Erie with American Legion military honors.
The family will receive friends during a visitation from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.
Online condolences may be left for the family through the funeral home website at www.ymlfuneralhome.com.
Memorials have been established for the Terry C. Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research at KSU and for the Mayo Clinic Palliative Care Program, Rochester, Minn. Contributions may be left in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502.