Throwback Thursday – I Did Not Know Bill Cook

Drum Corps Planet user njthundrrd recently posted a thread in the site’s discussion forums linking Bill Cook’s 2011 obituary and asking for other users’ stories about Bill Cook. This reminded me of the time I actually met Mr. Cook shortly before his passing. I am reposting my article as a little Throwback Thursday look back at my experience. Enjoy!

Bill Cook
Bill Cook, 1931-2011

I didn’t know Bob Lendman. Between this sentence and the article title, you’re probably confused.


Let me elaborate.


A little over a week ago, I had the honor of performing with Star United at a celebration of the life of Bob Lendman. Mr. Lendman was the former director of both the Phantom Regiment and Blue Stars drum and bugle corps. He also was immensely helpful with a third corps, the Star of Indiana. Outside of the drum corps world, Mr. Lendman was also former president of Sabin Corp, which eventually became Cook Polymer. Between the Star of Indiana and Cook connections, holding the Lendman ceremony at the Cook Group headquarters in Bloomington, Indiana, made perfect.


All well and good, Kevin, but what does this have to do with Bill Cook? Well, during the ceremony, many people stood up and told personal stories about their experiences with Mr. Lendman. One of those people was the founder and CEO of Cook Group, Inc., and the Star of Indiana, Bill Cook.


This was the first time I had ever been in the same room with the man and what struck me immediately was that, unlike some company CEOs that I know, Mr. Cook did not sit in the first row, front and center of all the people at the ceremony. Instead, Mr. Cook sat a couple rows back, blending in with the rest of the people who had come to celebrate the life of a friend, co-worker, and an incredible individual. The only time he drew attention to himself was when he took his turn to speak about Bob Lendman, someone whom he considered a close friend. Even then, Mr. Cook didn’t do anything to draw more attention to himself than necessary. This day was not his, after all.


After the ceremony, Mr. Cook came over to Star United and shook each member’s hand, thanking us for our performance and our part in the ceremony. For the first time in my life, I shook the hand of a billionaire, but that wasn’t important. What was important was that this man honestly appreciated what we did and wanted to make sure we knew it.


That was the first time I met Bill Cook. Unfortunately, that was the only time I met him, as well.


I had already heard and read many stories about Bill Cook, Star of Indiana, and his assistance for other drum corps throughout the years. To say the man was generous is an understatement. How many corps survive and thrive now because of his help? How many staffs feature former Star members, all of whom were touched by Mr. Cook’s personality and philosophy?  Now that he has passed away, Indiana newspapers, radio and television stations are telling even more stories about the selflessness, the generosity, and the one-of-a-kind humanity which Bill Cook exhibited.


Originally, I had joined Star United as an opportunity to challenge myself musically and as another opportunity to perform in the drum corps world. Now I have a bigger reason: to get to know the people who have been influenced by Bill Cook and, through them, to learn about Mr. Cook himself. From what I already know, there’s a lot of great stories to be told and I’m looking forward to hearing them.


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