Jim was born on April 25, 1921, in Eureka, Calif. He grew up a young cowboy, working the family ranch in Petrolia. The Cook-O'Leary Family were the earliest settlers in the Petrolia Valley. Jim told stories of driving sheep from South Mayde to Petrolia, and one rancher recalled, young nine-year-old Jim coming and negotiating the cost of sheep. He was truly a man at a young age with wisdom that only Jim could possess. He told stories of pushing cattle from the ranch to the train station at Fernbridge. Jim loved nothing more than a long days work.
Jim married Loie Jean Lanini on Aug. 9, 1947. They had seven children. In 1958 they purchased the families ranch in Bear River, and moved their family over there.
Jim was an active member of Native Sons of the Golden West, as well as the Humboldt Swiss Club and Humboldt Wool Growers Association. He was always a supporter of Ferndale Youth and Ferndale High School Football, and was extremely proud to watch both his son, Francis and grandson, Jim coaching. He was a life-long member of St. Patrick's Church in Petrolia, a past president of Humboldt/Del Norte County Cattlemen's Association, a member of the Buckeye Conservancy, and a charter member of the Bear River Regional Resource Conservancy.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, George Cook and Daisy O'Leary Cook; his wife, Loie Jean Cook; and his brother, Joseph Cook; his daughters, Mary Linda, Catherine Frances Cook, and Margaret Anne Vevoda; as well as his grandsons, John Louis Vevoda and Sammy Holt.
Jim is survived by his wife, Margot Casanova Wells; brother, Francis Cook; and children, George (Pam), Annette Holt (Gene), Louis (Debby), Francis (JoAnn); his grandchildren, Joseph and Robert Vevoda (soon to be wife Ashley Titus), Jim Cook (Janelle), Catherine Sundquist (Andy), Laci Cook, Marta and Daniel Cook, Bryan, Jordan, and Patrick Holt; great-grandchildren, Chezney Kay Sundquist, Jasmine Holt, and soon to be baby girl Cook; as well as his loyal dog, Bandit, who was by his side until the very end.
Jim never knew a stranger. The friends and extended family he was survived by are far too many to name. He lived a good 90 years, and in the end it was the love of friends and family, and a strong faith in God that helped him find peace. On Oct. 11, 2011, the day before his 15th wedding anniversary, Jim grew wings and flew away to Heaven above.
There will be a celebration of life in Jim's honor on Friday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m., at the Central Park Ranch in Bear River. Friends and family are invited to attend and share stories of Jim's life. There will be a potluck directly following the celebration, so please bring your favorite story about Jim, and a dish to share.
Contributions can be made in Jims name to “Friends of St. Patrick's of Petrolia.” Jim's life dream was to see the Petrolia Church restored, and now it is our job to continue to see that his dream lives on.