Bennie Ray Cook was born on November 28, 1948 to Henry Cook and Nora Phillips Cook of Cave-In-Rock, Illinois. He was the fifth out of eight children. The Cook family moved from Cave-In-Rock to rural Elizabethtown where Bennie attended Central School and Church. The family then moved to Daisy Ridge in Rosiclare where Bennie attended Rosiclare High School and worked for the City of Rosiclare. At the age of 17, Bennie met the love of his life, 15 year old Dottie Eggert and they married within six months of meeting on March 13, 1966. Even though the couple married at 15 and 17 years of age and the odds were stacked against them, the couple enjoyed 50 years of beautiful marriage and were truly soulmates.
On July 25, 1968, God blessed Bennie and Dottie with a baby boy, Charles Henry Cook, lovingly called Chuckie. Chuckie was born with Trisomy 13 and a rare amino acid disorder therefore Chuckie spent most of his life in the Rosiclare or St. Louis Children’s Hospital. On April 21, 1970, God called Chuckie home. On the day that Chuckie died, Dottie was six months pregnant with the couple’s second son and miscarried therefore on that day, two Cook boys were given their wings.
Bennie went to work at Williams Quarry and was then hired at Ozark Mahoning where he worked and caused mischief with Snow Jack, Buford, and the rest of the gang until Ozark Mahoning shut down. Several co workers remember August 26, 1977, very well because Dottie gave birth to Tara Rene and Bennie went through Rosiclare honking the horn and yelling to let everyone know that he was a father to a healthy baby girl. When Bennie wasn’t working or with family you could find him hanging out at Ronnie Baldwin’s gas station or shop or Tolbert Lumber Yard.
On January 11, 1997, Bennie hesitantly welcomed Dottie’s son-in-law, Jeremy “String Bean” Wallace, to the family. Over the next 20 years, Dottie’s son-in-law would eventually be considered as Bennie and Dottie’s son, by Bennie and Bennie took great enjoyment out of the thought that Jeremy would one day understand the worries of having a daughter.
On November 25, 1999, Bennie’s life was forever changed when a 10 pound, 1 ounce baby girl, Alexandra or “Alicat or Monkeyhead”, as Papa would call her, entered this world with her Papa already wrapped around her finger. Bennie wouldn’t hold Alex at the hospital, but when Jeremy and Tara brought her home from the hospital, Bennie didn’t have a choice, Tara put Alex in his arms and from that day forward he saw or spoke to Alex every day for the rest of his life. Alex became Bennie’s partner in crime and they would take breakfast to Tolbert, mind the store while he went to the post office and bank, pull pranks on Joe Parker and bring candy or food to the clinic, pharmacy, hospital, bank, flower shop or nursing home.
In April of 1999, 7 months before Alex was born, Bennie’s health problems started with a massive heart attack that left him with 20% heart function. He had stents in 1999 and open heart surgery with valve replacement in 2005. In 2010 he had a stroke and was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. In 2014 he began dialysis due to renal failure. Bennie never gave up on anything, he was a fighter. He came from a poor family and he fought all his life for a better life for his family and fought throughout his illnesses. No matter how he was feeling, when he was asked how he was doing, he would always say “pretty good”. He never complained, always smiled and worried about the loved ones around him. He endured so much but remained a pillar of strength.
We were so blessed to have him not only as the head of our family, guiding and loving us, but as a best friend to his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. Bennie was a friend to all, a stranger to none and the best husband, father, and papa in the world.
Card of Thanks
The family of Bennie Cook would like to say a special thank you to Dr. Sunga, Kristin Cowsert, Dr. Chatto, Dr. Hastie and the clinic and hospital staff for taking such wonderful care of Bennie; Bennie’s brothers, Bud, Bob, and Bertis, and his sister, Bonnie, for their love and support; Steve Tolbert and Billy Gill for all of their assistance; his special sister Cecilia Tegtmeier for taking care of all of us; Hardin County Funeral Services for the beautiful service; Stan Pennell and Roy Baker for comforting words and for giving such a wonderful tribute at the funeral; The Flower Basket for the beautiful angels and flowers; our area churches for the prayers for Bennie and our family, and all of our friends and family that have brought flowers, food, gifts or donations to the Bennie Cook Memorial Fund.
Words could never express how grateful we are to each and every one of you. The Memorial Fund is being held at Banterra Bank and donations will continued to be accepted every year. Tara and Alex will be meeting with a representative of the American Heart Association in hopes of bringing the first heart walk to Hardin County in April in honor of Bennie.
Dottie, Tara, Jeremy and Alexandra