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MEEKER I With the paper changing editors it seems a perfect time to celebrate one of the incredible women behind nearly 30 years of “The Meeker Herald,” Leota Cook. The Cook family bought the newspaper company in 1964 and owned and operated the company until the early 1990s. In that time, the job included everything involved with the newspaper, from reporting to printing, to folding and mailing the final product each and every week. Jim and Leota Cook spent endless hours producing an outstanding newspaper for our community.
Leota Cook, or “Grandma Otie,” as her grandkids call her, has been so much a part of Meeker for so many years that her license plate actually reads “Meeker.” She wrote the local happenings section along with countless other responsibilities at the paper. Her Monday mornings often consisted of calling community members and asking about upcoming events or important dates. She was adamant about getting the information correct so she always took notes.
One of her granddaughters says, “She still takes notes. When she calls, sometimes I can tell she is reading notes from her previous conversation.”
And call she still does. She is active in each of her children’s, grandchildren’s and now great-grandchildren’s lives. Her grandchildren have similar admiration for their grandma.
“She has never said an unkind word about anyone and I have not heard anyone say an unkind word about her,” said Wendy (Cook) Lay.
Sydney Cook echoed the feeling. “Besides her cooking and her unfailing positivity, I’d say the most beautiful thing about Otie is her heart. She is so deeply involved and committed not only to our family but to the community as well. She does everything for everyone and never asks for anything in return. If I could turn out half as amazing as her, I would be happy.”
Leota’s daughter-in-law, Debbie Cook, remembers how hard Jim and Leota worked. Having the only printer in town, they not only printed the newspaper but also a hard copy book, countless invitations and anything else community people needed.
“Grandma Otie will make it sound like it was no big deal, but they never took a vacation in 16 years,” Debbie said. “She had five kids in seven years and ran the entire paper, she is amazing.”
Leota is 87 now and walks nearly every day (as she always has) and never misses a Sunday at church. She is so involved in the United Methodist Church that it is not uncommon to see her cleaning, staining, cooking, or anything else the church needs. She is always there and always concerned about everyone around her. No doubt the church is as proud to have a Christian woman like Leota in it as she is of the new church itself.
In the first 100 years of the newspaper, there were only three owners: James Lyttle, R.G. Lyttle and the Cook family. This was an outstanding accomplishment and one that took a phenomenal woman behind every edition. For all the time and effort Leota put into the paper, she simply said, “It was really interesting.” She wanted me to ask her son about the details. In her absolutely unselfish manner, she did not want to talk about what she had done.
When asked to describe Leota, however, people were quick to compliment her. Two words were mentioned in every case, “amazing” and “positive.” In a business of constant information and endless gossip, Leota always managed to sort out the positives and never get caught up in the rest. It is perhaps the key to their success and longevity in a business that certainly is vulnerable to criticism.
In all that “Otie” has done, I believe it is her positive outlook and remarkable heart that leaves the biggest impact. Her enthusiasm and work ethic has kept her young through all the years, her curiosity keeps her memory fresh and her love and faith set her apart as a truly remarkable member of our community.