"I don’t fear death. I have no control over it other than what I’m doing now, to try to keep myself happy, content, working, not overdoing, not be too worried, do my exercises religiously, eat a reasonable diet—all these things I’ve tried to do because I don’t particularly want to give it all up. Now, if I get killed, I’ll sure as hell be mad." —Bill Cook, from The Bill Cook Story
Bloomington businessman and philanthropist Bill Cook passed away on Friday, April 15, at the age of 80. From a humble beginning in his apartment, Cook grew his company into a multi-billion dollar business with locations throughout Indiana and the world. But despite his vast fortune, Bill Cook remained as unpretentious as he was during the early days of his business, when he was building medical devices in his bedroom. In his biography of Bill Cook, Bob Hammel relates several examples of Cook's lack of pretention, including how he sealed the deal to write Cook's life story.
The two of us were not close acquaintances when, in September 2006, we took a ride in his car to the West Baden–French Lick hotel renovation and preservation projects then under way. Doing a biography of Bill Cook had been an ultimate ambition for me in some vague, out-there-somewhere day, but it was not in my mind when I got in the car.
We hadn’t reached the southern limits of Bloomington before he came out of the blue with a question: “How would you like to do my book?”
I thought long and hard, maybe a full second. Then I said, “I’d like to do that.” It isn’t recommended driving procedure, but he kept the car going, controlled the wheel with his left hand, reached his right across, and said, “Fine. Let’s do it.” That quickly I shared one of those legendary Bill Cook handshakes. An ultimate commitment.
After that handshake, Hammel said Cook "never went back on his end of the commitment in any way." His high level of commitment was evident in any project that he took on, and we thank him for all the contributions he made to the Bloomington community and the state of Indiana.
Services for Bill Cook will be held this Saturday, April 23 in the in the front rotunda of Cook World Headquarters, where Cook will lie in state from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.