There’s dedication, and then there’s what runs through Joe Cook’s veins.
Some people work hard and commit themselves to a cause. Others, like Cook, are so passionate and committed to a mission that their own well-being is almost an afterthought.
Well, to him. Not to everyone else. But let’s get to that in a second.
Welcome to Distinction’s spring issue. We have a great slate of stories for you: interviews with movie directors, tours of spectacular gardens and golf courses, a guide to great brunch spots. We are also adding a feature and tweaking an existing one. On the Water will introduce readers to people working and playing in this region’s defining resource, and Kim Wadsworth, local socialite and editor of Vow magazine, will bring her unique voice to an expanded Social Scene.
But our biggest package this time around is reserved for the environment and the local heroes fighting to protect and restore it. You’ll meet artists who tackle rising waters, disappearing forests and colony collapse disorder; read about an organization bringing a river back to life; meet the “spandex mafia”; and hear from several passionate advocates about the most dangerous issues facing Tidewater.
They are all great stories, but perhaps the best – and most illuminative – story happened behind the scenes with Cook, a longtime environmental advocate and chairman of the Sierra Club’s Chesapeake Bay Group Executive Committee.
He joined us for a roundtable discussion about challenges facing our region. About 10 minutes in, he clutched his chest. He tried to fight through the pain and keep the discussion going, but it quickly became clear this was an emergency.
Right before the paramedics arrived he pushed his notes over to our writer, Mary Architzel Westbrook, and said, “Maybe you can still use these.”
Cook, who had gone through heart surgery in January 2016, was suffering an aortic hematoma and was rushed into surgery. He would have two more surgeries after that. Still, during a time when most would be rightly concerned with things other than a magazine story, he still managed to give us an interview and pose for a portrait.
Why? Because protecting the environment, to him, is a matter of life and death – for all of us. We should all be lucky enough to believe in something so strongly. And we all are lucky to still have Cook out there fighting.
Thanks for reading. And please, let us know how we’re doing.