Andrew M. Cook taught, volunteered
By Bill Buell / Daily Gazette
For Andrew M. Cook, making a meaningful impact on the lives of others wasn’t just a job or a hobby. It was his life.
A Glenville native and 1995 graduate of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Cook died in Santiago, Chile on Jan. 28 at the age of 39, a drowning victim. He so immersed himself into helping others he didn’t want to be limited to just one language, according to his sister, Sarah Cook-Raymond, so he moved to South America nine years ago and learned to speak Spanish fluently.
“To meet him was to like him, and to know him was to love him,” said Cook-Raymond, Andrew’s younger sister. “He was quietly living an extraordinary life in Chile, and he loved it. He didn’t talk about it to us, he was too modest, but he was all about helping others. He was gregarious, a jokester, but he always made you feel like you had all his attention, no matter who you were.”
Cook’s family went down to Santiago last week to retrieve his remains and a memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Scotia.
“We’re going to celebrate his life Saturday, and we picked the gospel story that emulates the life of Andrew,” said his father, Andrew B. Cook. “It’s the story of the Good Samaritan and about paying it forward, which is what Andrew did. He volunteered and he talked others into volunteering. He immersed himself into it, and he also fell in love with Santiago and the Chilean culture.”
Chile, it seems, also fell in love with Cook.
“They had a wake last Thursday and then a service on Friday, and the wake went all day long,” said Cook-Raymond. “He was there in his casket for eight and a half hours and people came in non-stop. They filled up three reception books. We were overwhelmed.”
Cook, who was on vacation at the time of his death, most recently worked as a English professor at Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Chile, and had earlier taught English at Instituto Chileno Norteamericano in Curico, Chile. Before heading to Chile, Cook also worked in New York City in support of interfaith relations, volunteered as a counselor to high school students in war-torn Cypress and also gave plenty of his time to the Red Cross and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
A standout soccer player at Burnt Hills, he captained the school’s first varsity hockey team and played on the tennis team. He then headed off to St. Lawrence University where he continued to play soccer and earn his four-year degree before getting his master’s degree in conflict transformation from the School of International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont.
“He got his degree in economics, so I think the teaching thing kind of snuck up on Andrew,” said his father. “He studied abroad, he did a year in AmeriCorp and then applied for a job in Providence, Rhode Island so he could teach English to the large Spanish population there. They told him they wanted people who were bilingual, so he didn’t get that job but he did go to Chile and learned Spanish fluently.”
After the funeral, the Cook family was presented with two urns. Some of Andrew’s ashes were buried on a hill overlooking Santiago, and the remainder will be interred in the cemetery at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Schenectady.
“He loved Santiago so we thought that would be what he wanted,” said Cook-Raymond. “His friends and family in Chile can go to his grave there, and we will also have him here in Schenectady. Andrew always felt like he should reach out to people and that’s what he did. He wasn’t materialistic. He was very spiritual and read his Bible daily, more so than necessarily attending the Mass. He felt like the church was rough on some people some of the times. It was flawed, but his faith itself was perfect.”
“Some families have kids and they grow up and seem to stay local,” said Andrew B. Cook. “Our kids I guess wanted to spread their wings, and Andrew had the largest wings by far. He loved traveling, and he was passionate about helping people. He never stopped reaching out.”
Along with his father and sister, Cook is survived by his mother Mary and older brother Peter.