Peter C. Cook
Born in 1914 to Cornelius (Neil) and Cornelia (Kate) Cook as the oldest of five boys, Peter was a native of Grand Rapids, graduating from South High School in 1932. He led the way for Art, Bob, Jim and Roger. Peter believed in his graduating class motto, "Heed the past, live for the present, and look to the future". He completed a two-year evening program at the Davenport McLachlan Institute equipping him to move into Leonard/Kelvinator’s accounting department. He later moved to other positions in accounting and finance at Blackmer Pump, Ranger Reel and two furniture companies. Peter was introduced to the import automobile business in the late 1940s as a partner in Import Motors, Ltd. As President of Import Motors in 1954, he and his partners decided to focus exclusively on Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche. By 1968, 54,000 VW Beetles were sold to their 60 dealers in Michigan and Indiana.
Volkswagen’s popularity declined in the mid-1970s, so in 1977 Import Motors diversified by forming a new corporation. The new entity Transnational Motors, Inc., dba Mazda Great Lakes, distributed Mazda automobiles and parts in the five Great Lakes states. He also continued to distribute VWs until 1980 when Volkswagen of America bought out Import Motors. As Chairman of the Board of Mazda Great Lakes, Peter continued distributing Mazda products until 2000 when Ford/Mazda bought out his distributorship. Not being an advocate for retirement Peter formed Cook Holdings and he remained active as Chairman until his death, November 28, 2010.
Peter's parents instilled in their five children the joy of singing at church and together at home, and they all played musical instruments. Peter played the trumpet and he loved to listen to Dixieland music and old church hymns. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, collecting antique guns and western art. Throughout his long business career Peter provided both financial and leadership support to a host of church, community, educational, and medical organizations. His interest in and concern for the needs of the community’s neighborhoods were represented by his numerous substantial gifts to a wide range of community projects and organizations.
On giving, Peter would often say, “I believe one of the reasons I’ve been so greatly blessed materially is to be able to help people and organizations that need help.” From that belief came what he called his “big saying” about giving: “There are two necessary things in giving, one is to be willing; the other is to be able. Able is secondary because many people who are not willing do become able but still never give. People who have little, yet give what they can, become the big givers when they are able. That’s because they have always been willing!” Peter and Pat established the Peter C. & Emajean Cook Charitable Trust in 1959 to facilitate corporate and private giving. This Trust was replaced with The Cook Charitable Foundation in 1987 so that their long legacy of philanthropy would continue after their deaths. In 2010 the Foundation was renamed the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation.