Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Column 60 - Theres an Empty Chair

There’s an Empty Chair

In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare writes “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.” For some people that may be appropriate, but for others it would be tragic if that were the case.

I was a member of the Rotary Club of Incline Village for a few years until my work schedule made my participation impossible. During the time I was a member, I noticed that there were a few different kinds of people in Rotary, and I suspect this is true of any service club. There were some who were there for the fellowship, some there for business reasons, and some who seemed to thrive on the opportunities Rotary provided for them to participate in and serve the ideal of making our community a better place to live. Jack Cooke stood out as one of the most active of this last group.

I can’t say I knew Jack very well – we were casual acquaintances – when we ran into each other at parties or around town we’d chat, and Jack was invariably cheerful, ebullient, and positive about whatever his current project or enthusiasm was. In this he was just the opposite of so many people who seem to thrive on complaining and to pride themselves on their diagnosis of what is wrong. Not Jack – for Jack life was a series of opportunities to serve, to contribute, and to make something better.

In a time and place where so many people have to let you know how important or connected they are, Jack was a guy who would take on any job no matter how small, just because it needed to be done. In Rotary one year he encouraged me to be Membership Chair. Jack was a Past President of the club and a past chair of the Membership Committee. He was clearly an elder statesman of the club and if he had done nothing but attend meetings no one would have faulted him – he had done his service. Still, when I asked him to be on the committee and to do induction meetings with new members, he dove in as enthusiastically and energetically as if he was doing it for the first time. Jack was involved with the High School Boosters Club, the Hospital Foundation, the Tahoe Arts Foundation, the Parasol Community Collaboration's Arts and Culture Committee and was a perennial star in the Star Follies. He was a founder of the K-16 Council and was always there to help anyone in the Village who needed help.

When Jack was named the Club’s Rotarian of the Decade this year, a bench was dedicated at Burnt Cedar Beach in his honor. But the real memorial to Jack is all over the community in the people and organizations he touched and helped and in the spirit of community service he embodied. Perhaps the poet Stephen Spender said it best:

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky,
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun, they traveled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.
Stephen Spender, I Think Continually

There’s an empty chair in Incline today, Jack, and you are missed.

1 comment:

Chet Curtis said...

Good morning Ed,

Thank you for the time you invest in developing your editorials for the Bonanza. I greatly enjoy reading both your articles and Jim Clark’s.

You outdid yourself today with “Cooke’s Passing Leaves and Empty Chair”. You captured many of our feelings. Thank you.

Have you considered rejoining Rotary Club of Incline Village? Your schedule may have changed and you may now have time to carve out a couple of hours
On Monday’s to join us for lunch, fellowship and thought provoking speakers. Plus, you could identify a community service you may choose to support as a Rotary Member, only investing that time you have available. It would be great to have you with us!

Thanks again! Have a wonderful Holiday Season.

Most sincerely,

(Rotary of Incline Village Program Chairman)

Chet Curtis
U.S. Region Manager
P.O. Box 7320 / 101 Red Cedar #2
Incline Village, NV 89452
Toll free: 866-266-6364
Cell:       775-742-3650