William A. Cook was the founder of the Cook Group. He was a pioneer in the development of live-saving, minimally invasive medical device technology. He was a successful businessman, a philanthropist at heart and above all a Hoosier.
Bill Cook died Friday at his Bloomington home of congestive heart failure. He was 80 years old. Survivors include his wife Gayle Cook, son Carl and daughter-in-law Marcy, and a granddaughter.
On Saturday, friends, family and even a rock legend celebrated his life at a place that personifies his legacy.
There were cheers and applause, no moment of silence for Indiana's wealthiest man. Family members say it's how Bill Cook would have wanted it.
"He wanted a party. He always wanted everybody to be happy and have a good time," said a family member.
Cook was the driving force behind Indiana Landmark's new state headquarters near downtown Indianapolis. He donated more than $10 million toward the project.
"One of the richest men in the world but obviously, at the same time he gave back. He did so much for his community. That's really how we should remember him," said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard (R).
John Mellencamp had been tapped to perform for the center's opening gala. Instead, he sang to honor his friend of 30 years.
"I know that he would not want me up here playing a bunch of sad songs, so I'm going to play a song that I know that he would like. It's called 'Save Some Time to Dream,'" said Mellencamp.
IU basketball great and Olympic champion Scott May flew in from Europe to see Bill Cook at this event. He live all of Cook's friends, say they'll miss the small ways he touched their lives.
"He always had time for me... to talk or to help me with my problems or just chat. I'm really going to miss him," said May.
Bill Cook was scheduled to receive Indiana's highest honor in May. Governor Mitch Daniels plans to award it posthumously after setting a date with the Cook family. The governor released a statement following Cook's passing:
"As luck would have, Cheri and I were able to have dinner with Bill and Gayle Cook in the newly renovated Old Centrum building just last Saturday. I'll always remember that bit of good fortune, as I will always remember this legendary Hoosier."
Cook's funderal will be held in Bloomington. Arrangements are still in the works at the Funeral Chapel of Powell & Deckard.
The Cook Group issued a statement after his passing, about Bill Cook's life and legacy:
"Started in the spare bedroom of his Bloomington apartment in 1963, the Cook family of companies grew into a global entity employing more than 10,000 people with manufacturing, sales, logistics and administrative facilities across the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. A noted philanthropist and historic preservationist, Mr. Cook and his family were involved in numerous charitable activities and sponsored the restoration of the West Baden Springs Hotel and French Lick Hotel in southwestern Indiana.
"Bill's many contributions to the medical industry are unprecedented, and his many contributions to the community and to charitable organizations are extraordinary," said Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Group Inc. "It was through his unique vision, persistence and dedication that Cook grew into a compassionate and caring company for patients, customers and employees. He truly epitomized the meaning of success."
Cook was born Jan. 27, 1931, in Mattoon, Ill. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Northwestern University in 1953 and pursued post-graduate work in physics at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He was a veteran of the U.S Army.