Cook honored for service to Darke Co. Park District


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — Jon Cook was honored for his years of service to Darke County Parks at the regular meeting of the Darke County Parks Board of Commissioners on Thursday, Feb. 16. His wife, Pam, along with his daughters and their families were present for the recognition.

Cook has served the Darke County Parks for two decades as a volunteer and for the past 16 years as a commissioner. He retired from the commission this past fall.

Roger Van Frank, park director, said, “Today is all about you. You have been a guiding light for me, for the park district, for employees, for well over those two decades.” Van Frank noted that much of Cook’s photography has been used in the district’s literature over the years. “I personally can’t thank you enough for giving guidance to me all these years. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank his family for him being with us when he probably should have been with you.”

Robb Clifford, naturalist, said, “Jon has been here, pretty much, since day one for me. He’s been a great guidance for us.” Clifford added that Cook has been someone they could call on when they were short on volunteers. “Very grateful for his constant, thoughtful questions and concerns he has voiced. How are we going to do this safely? How are we going to do this new program?”

Former Park Commissioner Steve Shaltry said, “When I came to Darke County in 1973. One of the first couples we became friends with was Jon and Pam.” He continued, “Jon was able to have his arm twisted enough to come on board. You didn’t replace Susan (Gray). You were your own commissioner. That’s the way it should be.”

Karen Burkett, former office manager for the Darke County Parks, said, “Jon came at least two or three times a week to help me get started and understand the workings of the park district. He was a godsend. I truly can’t say enough about you Jon. Thank you.”

Commissioner Mike Henderson shared, “I appreciate all the help that you have given me as someone, and Darryl (Mehaffie), too, because we were both fairly new to the board and the park district setting. I can’t say enough about how much time and effort you’ve taken at meetings, outside of meetings, to share your knowledge and still be on as an advisor. We really appreciate that because you have a wealth of knowledge and know the parks inside and outside.”

Mehaffie, who was appointed to Cook’s seat, pointed out that Cook will still be a part of the organization. Mehaffie revealed he moved a motion to retain Cook as an advisor to the board until he no longer wanted to serve in that position. The motion was approved.

Cooked received several commendations from governmental agencies.

State Representative Angie King presented a commendation on behalf of the governor and lieutenant governor and the State of Ohio as well as a commendation from the Ohio House of Representatives.

King read from the governor’s commendation, “We join with your colleagues in congratulating you on your retirement from the Darke County Park District after 16 years of public service, as well as your volunteer service prior to being appointed a park commissioner. Throughout your career, you have been a tremendous asset to the office, your co-workers and citizens of Ohio.”

The Ohio House of Representatives commendation was presented on behalf of Speaker of the House Jason Stephens, State Representative Jena Powell and State Representative King. The commendation read, “We’re pleased to pay tribute to you for your 16 years of exceptional service to Darke County Parks. With a hearty applause we congratulate you on your record of service and salute you as a fine Ohioan.”

Park Commissioner Henderson read the commendation from the Ohio Senate signed by Senate President Matt Huffman and Senator Stephen Huffman, “On behalf of the members of the Senate of the 135th General Assembly of Ohio, we are pleased to extend this special recognition to Jon Cook on your many years of service to the Darke County Park District’s commissioners. Diligent and painstaking in all your endeavors, you have achieved a noteworthy record of service to the Park County District, distinguishing yourself as an outstanding individual.”

Darke County Commissioners Larry Holmes and Marshall Combs presented a commendation from the county and declared Thursday, Feb. 16 as Jon Cook Day in the county. Cook was a former Darke County employee and Holmes said the county not only wanted to recognize his serve to the Park District, but also his service to the county, as a whole. “Job well done,” said Holmes. “Thank you for being there for the community.”

Congressman Warren Davidson said, “We are thankful for all the time you’ve given in service. It’s exciting to see the growth of the park district and none of that happens without leadership. Thank you for being one of the core leaders for making that happen.”

Cook said, “I wasn’t expecting this. When I left the commission board, I asked for no parties, nothing, no celebration. You guys got me. I had the opportunity of serving with Steve Shaltry, Dan Schipfer. I had the hard part of replacing Susan Gray as a park commissioner. It was hard to fill her shoes, but we didn’t need to fill her shoes. We just trapped on. I started as a volunteer in 1995-96. I volunteered my services to photograph the parks, the woodlands.” He remembered using his pictures to present programs to area churches. He noted this was before computers were being used and the pictures were put on slides for the presentation. “I got to enjoy the parks. You haven’t seen our parks unless you can follow the seasons in our parks, and I did.”

Choking back tears, Cook said, “Thank you for this honor. It is overwhelming.”

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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