Duke Cook and the late Mel Cook were recognized Tuesday in a ceremony at the Sleepy Eye Public School (SEPS) by the Sleepy Eye Education Association (SEEA) for being Friends of Education.

Duke and the family of Mel Cook received plaques with the recognition engraved. A separate plaque will be in the display case by the district office and names will be added each year.

According to the president of SEEA, Mindy Berkner, the intermediate organization of SEEA has recognized community members regionally who have supported schools around the area for many years. SEEA wanted to provide local recognition of community members who support the district in many ways.

Duke and Mel Cook are the first community members to be recognized.

Several community members including Dean Deibele, Cory Haala and Tim Hoffmann spoke at the ceremony.

“I’ve known the Cook family for more than 40 years,” Dean began. “I played sports with them and I’ve also coached a number of them. The one thing I always noticed is that the Cook family was always there for student athletes. They were in the grandstands, down on the field and in the hallways.” 

SEPS Athletic Coach Cory Haala came with a softball that he received from Duke in 1975, when he was a young child running around the softball fields while Duke coached his sisters.

The inscription on the ball says, “To Cory Haala from Duke Cook.” 

“I’ve held onto this all that time and I will continue to hold onto it,” Cory said.

Tim Hoffmann, SEPS softball coach remembers the Cook family at every sporting event and Mel’s smile.

“He (Mel) always had that smile, even when sometimes I couldn’t smile after a game,” Tim added.

A sentiment that was echoed time after time was that the Cook family supported athletic events from coaching to simply being in the stands supporting student athletes.

“We appreciate all the support they have given the school and the kids know they are there to support them and that’s important too,” Cory said.