OBITUARY: John Cooke Mining legend dies at 80

TORONTO - For some, his memory conjures the gentle, honey scent of Chivas Regal scotch, to others, the corners of a...


TORONTO - For some, his memory conjures the gentle, honey scent of Chivas Regal scotch, to others, the corners of a meticulously tied tie coupled with a well-tailored suit. But whatever the memory, its roots lie in a deep fondness and respect for John S. Cooke and the era he embodied.

John Cooke, publisher, director, Mining Hall of Fame and mining devotee, lost his battle to Lou Gehrig's disease on Sunday, March 9, 2008, at the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ont. He was 80.

Cooke dedicated 50 years of his life to the mining industry.

Cooke's marriage with The Northern Miner began in 1956, when he started out in advertisement sales. His passion and interest in the industry soon propelled him to advertising sales manager, then to vice-president and assistant general manager of the Northern Miner Press. In 1989, Cooke became the publisher of The Northern Miner, The Northern Miner Magazine, Canadian Mines Handbook, American Mines Handbook, and Canadian Oil and Gas Handbook.

"The Miner was his life," said Nean Allman, who worked closely with Cooke at The Northern Miner as both an editorial assistant and features editor. "Everybody in the industry associated him with it."

A year after becoming publisher, The Northern Miner was purchased by Southam and Cooke shifted with the publication, becoming executive publisher and the central force behind preserving the traditions associated with the newspaper.

Jim Borland, a former editor of the Miner, remembers a calm and composed man, never flustered by crisis. "John was a good people person, always willing to let people do what they were best at," Borland said.

In 1999, after 43 years at The Northern Miner, Cooke retired. But his focus never shifted from the mining circuit. True to his roots, Cooke turned his attention to the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, of which he was a founding director and treasurer.

Allman, a coordinator at the Hall of Fame, found herself once again in Cooke's company.

"As the Hall of Fame got under way, he took on more responsibilities of running the show," Allman said. "He was very interested and passionate about it."

Cooke, at 79, attended the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame banquet for the final time last year.

"It just won't be the same without him," Allman said.

Leon La Prairie, CEO and president of Darnley Bay Resources and a friend of Cooke's, said his role in the Hall of Fame was integral to the success of the organization.

"He carried the thing right through," La Prairie said.

Cooke's passion for the industry and the people in it eventually earned him the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) Distinguished Service Medal in 2007.

But beneath the recognition, the titles and the committees was a kind, caring man always willing to listen and give advice as necessary.

"The door was always open if you wanted to talk, whether personal or company-related," said Brian Warriner, senior advertising sales representative at The Northern Miner and a long-time friend of Cooke's.

Although Cooke's passing signifies the end of an era, his influence on the world of mining will long be felt.

Cooke is survived by his wife Ginny, daughters Nancy and Kelly, and his grandchildren Rebecca, Stephen, Gregory and Scott.

The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, at Maple Grove United Church in Oakville, Ont.

-- Used with permission of The Northern Miner


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