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Remembering Dan Cook, longtime employee of The Clanton Advertiser

Thirteen years ago, The Clanton Advertiser and Chilton County community lost for the first time the friendly, witty and enthusiastic presence of Dan Walter Cook, who retired to his hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi, after 27 years of heartfelt dedication to The Clanton Advertiser.

Two weeks ago, the same individuals bid farewell to Cook for the last time.

Cook, 75, “moved into his heavenly home” while resting at his Vicksburg residence with his wife and daughter on July 24, according to his obituary.

He leaves behind his wife of almost 16 years Pauline Cook, five children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, dear friends in Chilton County — and many, many photographs.

He was famous for them.

 

Working with Cook: ‘He loved working for the newspaper’

During his nearly three decades with The Clanton Advertiser, Cook excelled in advertisement, journalism and, perhaps most notably, photography.

His love for people and laughter created fun out of work and friends out of business colleagues and contacts.

Certainly, he is greatly missed.

“Dan was always fun to work with. He kept you laughing, and he had some great stories that he would tell,” former colleague Zack Bates recalled. Bates worked with Cook for four of Bates’ current 18 years of employment at the Advertiser.

“Dan did so many things for so many people,” Bates said. “He loved The Clanton Advertiser and the community that he served.”

Jimmy Huett, who has been an Advertiser employee for 10 years, said Cook was a pleasant person to work with.

“He had a joke or something funny to tell you most of the time … He was always smiling,” Huett said.

Production Manager Jimmy Ruff, a former 20-year colleague of Cook’s, said, “Dan was great to work with. He was a hard worker, well known and well liked. He loved working for the newspaper.”

From his start with the paper in 1978 to his retirement in 2005, Cook contributed enormously to The Clanton Advertiser.

Mike Kelley, who is a former partner and editor of The Clanton Advertiser, said Cook’s work with the Advertiser helped make it the successful daily news publication it remains today.

“Dan was working at the Mobile Press-Register when I offered him a position in our composing/dark rooms. The Clanton Advertiser and all of Chilton County benefited from his decision to take my offer,” Kelley said. “For 27 years, Dan was a fundamental member of our staff — helped change the newspaper from a once-a-week publication to a daily operation.”

Kelley said Cook began his work with the Advertiser as a darkroom tech, developing film-making prints and “shooting pages the way we did then.”

“Later, he learned to take news photos, and even later, he became an ad salesman — something he became very good [at],” Kelley said, adding that Cook additionally held a sideline job as an independent photographer for events, such as weddings and reunions.

 

Memorable moments with Cook: ‘He was always cutting up’

In remembering Cook, many friends and family members recalled favorite quotes and instances with Cook that continue to inspire smiles and laughter when called to mind.

“He had a saying he said: ‘I’m glad you got to see me today; your day’s going to be a lot better for it,’” longtime friend and fellow Clanton Lions Club member Glenn McGriff recalled.

(Cook was also a member of the Chilton County Alabama Exchange Club.)

Cook’s wife Pauline and former colleague Bates laughed when they shared the same quote with the Advertiser.

“He was a good guy. He worked hard, and he loved to take pictures,” McGriff said. “I remember, when he always took the picture, he’d say, ‘Alright now, I’m going to count to three, and I’m going to take your picture. 1-2-3!’” McGriff laughed. “He loved his pictures, and he was very dedicated to his job.”

McGriff said Cook was a great salesman and was always trying to sell him an ad.

“I bought a lot of ads from him,” McGriff, who had been a tax assessor at the time, said. “I told him one time, ‘Boy, you run more specials than I’ve seen in my life!’ He said ‘Glenn, I’ve got a special — you need to have an ad in it!’ And my wife used to kid me. She said, ‘Dad-gum, you’re not going to make money this year if you keep buying ads from Dan!’”

“You had to buy from him, and you had to like him,” McGriff continued. “I mean, he was always cutting up and always made you feel that you were a friend of his.”

McGriff, who alongside Probate Judge Bobby Martin spoke with Cook on the phone mere weeks before his death, said Cook will be greatly missed.

Jimmy Martin, one of Cook’s many friends at Martin Funeral Home, said he first met Cook when Cook began working for The Clanton Advertiser.

Of course, at that time, I was a coroner and he was always on the scene of pretty well most everything, especially automobile accidents,” Martin said. “Every time he’d take a picture of me, he either got my fanny or my head! He’d always take a picture while I was bent over working.”

Martin chuckled and said Cook was a “very comical” friend to have.

“He tickled me, because every time he took a picture, he wouldn’t take one, he’d take two or three. I said, ‘Cook, why in the heck you’re wasting camera?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m going to try to make you look good,’” Martin recalled. “So, he’d always try to make me look good with his pictures.”

Pauline said her husband loved to tease people.

“He was fun to be around. He would always tell women, ‘You’ve got eyes just like I like: one on the left and one on the right!’” Pauline Cook told the Advertiser.

She said she and her husband would return to Clanton each year for the Peach Festival — she would sit and listen to the band while he chatted with friends in the booths and captured even more Chilton County memories with his camera.

“He loved Chilton County, and he loved Chilton County peaches and the Peach Festival and the Peach Auction — he didn’t miss any of them,” McGriff said. “He loved them, and we’re going to miss him. He was a dear friend, a good man.”

 

Lasting impact: ‘Glad he was part of our lives’

For countless individuals across Chilton County, Cook’s comical “cutting up,” enthusiastic work ethic and personal, caring interest in people’s lives have made missing him all the harder but cherishing his memory all the sweeter.

Certainly, Cook leaves behind an immense legacy that extends beyond the four-cornered, ink-inscribed pages in bound archives at The Clanton Advertiser.

He leaves behind friends.

“Dan didn’t meet a stranger,” his wife said. “Dan was just — he made everybody laugh. If they didn’t have a smile on their face, after they talked to Dan, they did. He was a good man.”

Martin said Cook was always “out with people, trying to better the city and the county and everything else” as he helped them.

“He worked just as hard in the community to make Chilton County a better place to live,” Kelley said. “Those of us who knew him well are glad he was part of our lives.”

 

Services honoring Cook’s life were held on July 27 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Cook was interred at Cedar Hill Cemetery.