Former council member, longtime photographer fondly recalled
Friends and family remember James Cook as candid and a bit ornery but always generous and kind.
The longtime Basehor resident lost his battle with liver cancer Sunday, Feb. 3. He was 59.
Jim was born July 9, 1948, in Goodland and spent most of his life in the Kansas City area. He met his wife of 38 years, Susie, while attending Kansas State University.
"He was an outgoing person; outspoken," Susie said.
"He was a character, as most people would say," she added, laughing.
Jim was well known in the community through his business, the Jim Cook Photography Studio. The first time he picked up a camera, he was going into pre-law at Kansas University, Susie said. He began shooting some photos for a newspaper, then people started to call asking if he could take picture for their events. He did mainly school photography, and his first class was Basehor High School class of 1974. He also offered his services to Bishop Ward High School and Wentworth Military Academy.
Weddings were also on his resume. Susie said she could remember when a customer called asking if Jim did weddings, and he said yes even though he had never shot a wedding.
"I said, 'You don't do weddings' and he said, 'I do now,'" Susie said. "He wasn't afraid to tackle anything. He was very capable in anything he tried."
Friend Mike Rodina commented on Jim's great business mind and credits much of his success with his own embroidery business, Rodina Promotions, to Jim.
Rodina said Jim learned how to digitize a piece of art, or ready it for embroidery and became quite good at it. In fact, he said, Jim knew how to do a lot of different things and had a passion for fast cars.
"He was a great friend, a big brother, a banker, an adviser - he was all of those," Rodina said. "He encouraged me to take my business vertical and he was extremely generous. He always did something up and beyond whatever was requested of him."
Jim's "tell-it-like-it-is" attitude is something longtime friend Cathy Jambrosic always remembers about him when they were growing up together in Kansas City, Kan. Jambrosic said Jim had a lot of principles and when he felt something was right he stood behind it. He couldn't tolerate it when other people didn't do the same, she said.
However underneath the rough exterior, Jambrosic said Jiim was a kind-hearted family man who adored his wife, daughter, Jamie Benner, and his granddaughter Logan. He was fun, quick witted with the gift of gab and was popular in school, Jambrosic said.
Jim also gave back to the community by serving on the Basehor City Council and Planning Commission in the early 1980s and supporting all community events and the school district.
"He was kind, generous and gave back to the schools," Jambrosic said. "Those people supported his business, but he gave back to them as well. He really served the community in which he lived. He never wanted anybody to know how very soft he was on the inside. Very few people know that."
Friends and family said his attitude never changed, even when he was facing his disease. He was courageous and did everything he could to increase his quality of life, including taking a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota as well as undergoing chemotherapy, they said.
"He met his illness in a John Wayne-esque type of way," Rodina said. "He said he'd rather not be there, but he'd make the best of it."
"He never complained," Jambrosic said. "He never said 'Why me?' He was always just so grateful for the life that he had."
Susie said the family would like to express its gratitude for all the support it received through cards, letters and prayers. The family also suggests memorial contributions to Basehor-Linwood High School, Bishop Ward High School or the Wentworth Military Academy.