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A Watchdog Tends to the Meaning of Life at a Historic Texas Cemetery - Dallas, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member QuarrellaDeVil
N 32° 58.511 W 097° 07.676
14S E 674942 N 3650091
Quick Description: The Dallas Morning News paid tribute to the longtime caretaker of the historic Lonesome Dove Cemetery in Southlake, TX, with a Watchdog article after his passing on October 9, 2013.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 5/19/2014 7:04:45 AM
Waymark Code: WMKQXA
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 0

Long Description:
Dave Lieber
Published: 17 October 2013 10:24 PM
Updated: 17 October 2013 10:57 PM

For the last half century, Jack Cook prepared for the day he would die. He thought about it, he prayed about it, and more than anything else, he tenderly cared for the sacred and historic cemetery grounds in which he knew he would spend eternity.

The land is Lonesome Dove Cemetery in Southlake, and it serves as the final resting place for some of the original settlers, including early government and church leaders who began arriving in the 1840s.

Cook served as president of the Regular Lonesome Dove Cemetery Association, which meets once a year and is probably the oldest institution in Tarrant County. More than that, he designated himself the official caretaker of the grounds. He and that Cub tractor. The reason for this speaks of Texas.

If there’s one little piece of land that shows the meaning of life, not death, it’s ironically this patch of Southlake cemetery land, a century away from the bustle of a place that’s now a boomtown. A quiet 2.3-acre square that hardly looks important because only a few of its original tombstones survive.

For 166 years, Lonesome Dove Cemetery and landmark Lonesome Dove Baptist Church, one of the earliest churches, have existed side by side, one feeding the other. And yes, that’s where Larry McMurtry borrowed the name for his classic Western tale. But unlike Woodrow F. McCall and Gus McCrae, Jack Cook is real.

There are watchdogs for banks and watchdogs for government. But there are also watchdogs for the land, and in Texas that ought to be a most sacred duty.

Jack’s ties to the land go back to his relatives, who arrived in the Grapevine area in 1849. But his connection to the cemetery was burned into his soul in the early 1950s when both his wife of 10 years, Corrine, and his son, Tommy, who was 2, died in a house fire. After they were buried at The Dove, Jack staked out graves for himself and other family members. Then he spent the next five decades learning every blade of grass around them up to the fence on all sides.

He took on all the duties of caretaking. Folks kept asking if he wanted help. He always turned them down. He was in his 70s, then 80s, then 90s. He never wanted pay. He didn’t talk about the fire. Instead, he mowed.

“Nobody has as much invested in it as I do,” he explained.

“This is my life. I was born here. My grandparents, parents, wife and child are buried here — and aunts and uncles galore. Half of all the people in this cemetery were kin to me some way or another.”

Twenty years ago, at age 76, he was asked once again if he wanted a break.

“I hope to be able to do this for many more years. I enjoy it. It’s not hard. I used to mow it and weed it all in one day. Now I stretch it out over two.”

The next year, at age 77, he was still good to go. “One of these days, I’m not going to be doing this,” he said. “What I have is terminal. Old age.”

Two years after that, when Jack was 79, another man was allowed to come aboard. Mark Tucker, 40 years younger than Jack, lost his 4-year-old daughter, Emily, in a 1996 car accident. The cemetery doesn’t do much business anymore, not with 1,700 graves crammed into those 2 acres. But somehow Mark found Jack and The Dove.

Jack found room for Emily’s gravesite. He also counseled Mark. One grieving father to another. You never stop being sad, Jack explained, but then there’s this land.

Mark understood. “I’ll do anything that you need me to do, sir. Anytime you need me to do it.”

For once, Jack said yes. After that, it became the Jack and Mark Team. For the same reason. When Mark was offered an out-of-state job, he wouldn’t go. “I’m staying right here,” he said, pointing at that ground.

Ten years ago, Jack was 86 and mowing away when he found a gravesite for a mother. At the next meeting, with the grave still fresh, the mother’s surviving 14-year-old boy was in attendance. An odd sight. But that night, the meaning was passed from Jack to Mark to the boy, and the boy responded.

“I don’t mind coming over here to help,” he offered to Mark the way Mark had offered to Jack.

“Come over anytime,” Mark said.

“How did your daughter die?”

“Car wreck. And your mom?”

“She got sick.”

The boy looked away for a moment and asked, “When does she, uh, change?”

“Think about what God has planned and go with that.”

“OK,” the boy said quietly.

“And remember,” Mark said, “this is the most peaceful place on earth.”

A few years later, Jack was 93 when Southlake issued an official proclamation and held Jack Cook Day in honor of his work at the cemetery. He stepped down as president the next year because he had difficulty keeping track of the agenda. He was 94.

On Oct. 9, at age 96, Horace Weldon “Jack” Cook found that peace he sought for so long. Two days later, his funeral was held at the church, then his enormous family, which includes 10 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren, gathered around that special space.

Mark was there for the burial. He remembered the years he and Jack were a team. “One year rolled into the other,” he said, telling the story of this place.

With the coffin about to be lowered, retired church pastor Coy Quesenbury said, “Nobody deserves a plot in this cemetery more than Jack did.”

Considering who is buried there, that says a lot. A watchdog for the land, in the most peaceful place on earth.


Additionally, here is a link to information about the Jack Cook Day that was held on October 16, 2010. (visit link) He was quite a human being.
Type of publication: Newspaper

When was the article reported?: 10/17/2013

Publication: Dallas Morning News

Article Url: [Web Link]

Is Registration Required?: no

How widespread was the article reported?: local

News Category: Society/People

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