Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mr. Douglas Cook: His Legacy Will Live On In All of Us

By now most of you may be aware that Mr. Douglas Cook passed away last Sunday night. He had been ill for some time now, and his passing wasn't a surprise. But it is still tough to accept that he is gone and we won't be seeing him anymore. He was the definition of a visionary: a man who saw what plant nutrition could be, went against what is the norm, and paved the way to make it happen. What was started literally as a backyard venture in manufacturing new formulations of plant food has grown into an international venture benefitting growers, dealers, and LIQUID's loyal family of employees. He was more than just an agronomist and businessman. He saw what good a person was capable of doing if they would work hard and be kind and helpful to others. He would certainly challenge you to do your best and to think.
I remember when I first interviewed with Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers to be the new research manager back in 1992. He asked me if I had done much work in the science of plant fertility. I said that I had used and applied fertilizers before, but my specialty then was weed control, not fertility so much. He said that was good because I wouldn't have to unlearn any bad habits and that he could teach me the right way to feed plants. And so it was for over 18 years. I also remember at the start of my LIQUID career when someone in the office who learned that I was from Oklahoma mentioned that Garth Brooks was also from there (and incidently, also graduated from OSU). Mr. Cook then told me that I would make a bigger impact on the world than Garth would. Now I may have fallen short on that, and at the time, thought what he said was nonsense. But then I remember thinking that Mr. Cook really did have faith in me that I could do that. That made me feel good, and he certainly thought that his employees could move mountains. And I think that they have.
Since the NCRS was right in his backyard, we would see him almost daily during the growing season. He would always ask what we were up to, and what was the most exciting thing we had learned that day? And he really loved the PLFP tours of farmers, Area Mangers and company employees because then he had an audience. He would delve into his philosophy on feeding plants and often on life itself.
I would enjoy sharing a stop on the NCRS tours with him because you could always count on some back and forth banter and fun challenges that we shared.
Another great thing I enjoyed was being in Hawaii when he was there in the winter. Besides the beautiful scenery and climate, there was the opportunity to visit the Mid-Pacific Research Station on Kauai. It was his winter lab where he could continue to explore plant nutrition and visit with local growers. It was there that I had the opportunity to visit and interact with Mr. Jim Cassel, on whose property had the research station. There was a great friendship between these two gentlemen, and I enjoyed being with them. He will also always be on my most admired people list. Sadly he passed away in 2008. I will always remember the two of them singing Hawaiian songs with band and hula accompanyment in front of our banquets there. Now they are singing together again.
It is said that Life is for the Living. And that is true. We will all go on about our business and lives. And the company will continue to grow. But it will be different now as new people come to work for, or do business with LIQUID, and they will not have had the opportunity to know Mr. Cook personally. I don't think they will have the same level of appreciation for where we came from. But for those of us who had that great privilege, we will be glad to tell them.