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In Memoriam ~ Leon “Lee” Cook ’57

Leon “Lee” Cook ’57

Leon “Lee” Cook, 82, of Cass Lake, MN died Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center.

Funeral Services will be held at 1:00pm, Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at the Red Lake Community Center in Red Lake, MN. A wake will begin at 5:00pm, Monday, October 18, 2021, at the Red Lake Community Center in Red Lake, MN, and will continue until the time of the service.  Interment will be at the St. Mary’s Mission Catholic Cemetery in Red Lake, MN, under the direction of the Cease Family Funeral Home in Bemidji.

Leon “Lee” Cook was born in 1939 in Red Lake, MN to proud parents, Rose and Frederick Cook. After attending St. Mary’s Mission School, Lee attended and was the first Red Laker to graduate from St. John’s Preparatory School (1957) as well the first to graduate from St. John’s University (1962). Lee loved being a Johnnie and St. John’s became his second home. Lee attended the University of Minnesota where he obtained a Master’s in Social Work.

Lee’s professional life brought him to Washington DC, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and every corner of Minnesota, including Minneapolis where he raised three kids. Lee worked in the private and public sector and had an enviable resume to show for it. A few highlights from his career include being the youngest President elected to the National Congress of American Indians, Deputy Director – BIA, Director of Indian Education – Minneapolis Public Schools, Control Data, Interim Chairman – Red Lake Nation, HHS Commissioner – Mille Lacs Band, Director of Diversity – Augsburg College, Director of the American Indian Resource Center – BSU.

Lee served on many boards as well including the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, TPT, United Way – Twin Cities, YMCA, Dunwoody College, St. John’s Alumni Association, MN Indian Education, National Indian Education Association, and the Met Council to name a few. Lee was also proud to have been elected as a Vice-Presidential Nominee and was instrumental in the development of the Minneapolis American Indian Center. Lee was involved with the Native community locally, state wide, and nationally with an emphasis on education and development.

Never overshadowed by work, Lee’s first love was always family and friends. He loved his lifelong friends and classmates and continued to make and keep friends throughout his life. Whether he met folks on the golf course or over a martini, Lee never met a soul he couldn’t talk to… and Lee could talk. And talk. Overcoming a stutter at a young age, Lee was a clever wordsmith who engaged any audience in front of him.

Lee enjoyed golf and spent a lot of time on the course, he loved good cars and a stiff drink, he never turned down a good steak, loved to travel and made it to 49 states. Lee liked dinners with friends, bbq’ing, a good debate, politics, family holidays, reading the paper, a good sense of humor and a good laugh, especially at one of his own jokes.

Lee is survived by a heart-broken family including his beloved wife, Patricia (Patty), children, Kristin, Thomas (Ann), and Trisha; Grandchildren Zoey, Estelle, Theodore, William, Oliver. Others include special greats Ninde and Sophia; Michael Michaud, Staci Birt and first wife, Dana Cook. Lee also leaves behind dozens of cousins, nieces and nephews, grands, and many other relatives, and friends who are really going to miss our big guy! Lee was preceded in death by his parents Rose and Frederick Cook and his sister, Patricia

“Live each day like it’s the only one you’ve got.”

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