Donald V. Cook was born November 26, 1939 in Margaretville, NY to high school sweethearts George and Margaret (Odell) Cook. After years in New York, Massachusetts, and Florida, he designed houses for the Highlands, NC area from the late 1980s until his retirement in 2008. He loved Highlands and its people, always anxious to get back from wintering in Georgia & Alabama to see spring unfold at his house here. He was proud to show Highlands off to his family and friends who came to visit.
Donald was innately gifted for his house design career. As a young child, he and his younger brother had little metal cars they took to construction dirt piles in their neighborhood, where new homes were still being built. Donald would work and work at making the hills and roads right, to the point that George, eager to get his car going, said, “When are we going to start playing?” Well, organizing his space—in this instance, perfecting the roadways—that was the most fun to Donald. The space had to be right.
He had a unique view of his world. This showed early when he was the kid who drew his classmates’ lineup of muddy boots after a trip to a dairy; everyone else drew cows and milk buckets. That view, combined with artistic talent, served him well in house design.
Donald graduated from Clarkson College, then began work with Raytheon near Boston, obtaining a master’s degree in mechanical engineering while there. He started his house design business in Ft. Myers, FL after moving his young family (wife Joan, children Barbara and Doug) there to join his father’s home construction business, Crescent Properties. Donald found that the part he liked about the construction job was drawing the house plans. And so he went out on his own to draw plans full time in Florida until 1986, when he moved to Atlanta post-divorce. There he was the first engineer hired into Gwinnett County’s Building Inspection Department. During this time he met his second wife, Jane Maughon. Purchase of the Highlands house followed, and soon he began designing homes in the area.
He enjoyed the freedom of variety in house designs in the mountains, and made many friends of his customers and builders. Donald inspired confidence, and clients new to Highlands often sought his counsel when embarking on their building experience. Donald knew the builders and suppliers, and he could ease anxiety when it arose. His new and remodel projects dot the landscape.
Donald had a spirit of adventure. He hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1979 and did a cross country bicycle trip with his son Doug in 1980, Oregon to Virginia. His interests included early newspaper comic strips. For this, before internet days he published a fanzine “The Funny Papers” which included international subscribers. He also wrote a biography of cartoonist Bil Dwyer (of Dumb Dora fame), who spent his last years in Highlands. The biography is archived at the Cartoon Art Museum at Ohio State. Donald also exhibited portions of his cartoon art collection at the Hudson Library-Highlands several times. Another interest, self-flight of humans beyond mere gliding, he researched and had resumed that pursuit recently, studying bird flight and pterosaurs. He was also interested in mathematics, reading calculus textbooks for fun. At times he tutored math for high school students through a volunteer program in Highlands.
Donald learned to ice skate early on the backyard family rink in New York, and continued skating until age 78. At the last rink he frequented, the owners gave him free passes because the onlookers so enjoyed watching this grandfather glide quite effortlessly. And he loved to show the little ones a tip or two.
Donald collaborated with former Highlands resident Pete Sarjeant as puzzlemeisters. They began with PseudoCube printed in the Highlands Newspaper. They went on to become contributors to “Brain Games” which is distributed nationally.
Among his trademarks were the cartoon character pins on his hat—Betty Boop among them, a beard that went up and down from preppy to mountain man, and an inclination toward abundant hugs. He sported a Mercedes emblem installed on his Chevy pickup truck. He thought he’d overdone it when a technician first refused repair work on that truck and said “No, we don’t do Mercedes.”
Donald loved his family deeply and was so pleased to entertain them in Highlands. Daughter Barbara Yakulevich and husband John would bring their 4 children: Michael, Christy, Grace, and Joseph. Son Douglas and wife Robin visited with their daughter Heather. Donald, always up for a fun time,planned great expeditions and entertainments for their visits. Feeding his rooster was a treat for them too. As a young girl walking with him on Main Street, Heather once remarked, “Grandpa, you know everybody!” Donald’s brother George and wife Lorraine (sons David and George) visited too, once on the way to a Scottish meet at Grandfather Mountain, in celebration of their Scottish heritage.
Donald Cook died peacefully June 18, 2019, in an Atlanta hospice following a valiant battle with cancer. Byrd & Flanigan Funeral Home in Lawrenceville, GA was in charge of cremation. Memorials may be made to Lustgarten.org, a private foundation which funds research for pancreatic cancer. A time of remembrance will be celebrated at a later date this summer. Arrangements by Byrd and Flanigan Crematory & Funeral Service, Lawrenceville in charge of the arrangements. 770-962-2200 ByrdandFlanigan.com