Since day one, Rotary International’s motto has always been “Service Above Self.” No one exemplified that more than the late Roland H. Cook.
“Cookie,” as he was affectionately called by family and close friends, passed away on Wednesday, March 26 at 76 years old. He had been in ill health in recent years, but always found a way to kick his life back into high gear. He and his wife of 56 years, Frances E. (Terra) Cook, together formed a special bond that produced four wonderful children and enough sweet memories to last a lifetime. Roland was a family man first, a successful businessman second, and a dedicated servant of the Bristol Rotary Club.
“I live for this club,” he said in an earlier interview with this newspaper. “I love Bristol Rotary and everything it stands for.”
Roland was so committed to Rotary’s international principles, he never missed a single weekly meeting in 40-plus years. He was very proud of that achievement.
Roland Cook made countless friends over the years, first through business connections (as the owner of Cook’s Overhead Doors), but primarily because of his ties to Rotary. They all applauded his efforts, not only because he never missed a single meeting, but because of his enthusiasm working behind the scenes at Rotary events. He was totally dedicated to the cause.
Roland flourished at Rotary’s annual May Breakfast, showing his expertise in the kitchen, and worked diligently to ensure the success of the former Rotary Waterfront Festival. He was also a better-than-average performer at Rotary’s highly successful Musical and Broadway Shows. The man had no drawbacks.
“I worked for Cookie for 6 years or so when he was a local contractor,” recalled Bristol’s Paul Vollaro. “He taught me how to do so many things in construction. He was a great guy to work for. He would take the shirt off his back to help someone.”
Past Bristol Rotary Club president Paula Andrews remembers Roland as a man who would do anything for anybody.
“Roland was a true Rotarian with perfect attendance for 43 years,” she noted. “He did it all when we needed him. He was a kind and gentle man that will be missed by many.”
Roland was born in Providence. He lived in Warren before moving to Bristol 47 years ago, and owned and operated Cook’s Overhead Doors in Bristol for many years. He was a member and past president of the Bristol Rotary was a member Bristol County Lodge of Elks # 1860, and was an avid golfer.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children, Christopher Cook and his wife, Karen and Scott T. Cook of Bristol; and Amy E. Fitzgerald and her husband, Kevin of Portsmouth; and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a son, James A. “Jimmy” Cook.
Long after his death, people in Rotary will still talk about Roland Cook’s perfect attendance record… a milestone that may never be broken. But, more than that, they’ll remember a hard-working businessman whose total commitment to family and Rotary were one in the same. He will be sorely missed.
Manuel C. “Manny” Correira