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Herbert “Herb” Cook, former owner of the Cook Sporting Goods chain and a Colorado real-estate investor, died Tuesday. He was 93.
Cook was born in Denver on July 23, 1924 to Jane and Dave Cook. The same year, Dave Cook started the first sporting goods company in Colorado, Dave Cook Sporting Goods — later known simply as Cook Sporting Goods — with his brother Max. In 1932, Dave bought out his brother’s shares. He opened the Larimer Street store in 1936.
Growing up in Denver’s Montview neighborhood with his brother, Richard “Dick,” Herb Cook watched his father invest and expand Cook Sporting Goods. He attended East High School on Denver’s east side and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Curtesy of Beck Archives, Special Collections, at the University of Denver.
In the summer of 1947, Herb married Gloria Melnick, another Denver native, after meeting her on a golf course in Park Hill. The couple later had three daughters — Cindy, Debbie and Shelly.
Following their father’s death in 1951, Herb and Dick took over the family business. The pair operated the growing sporting goods empire together until 1986 when history repeated itself and Herb bought out Dick’s interest.
“(Herb) loved the sporting goods business,” Cook’s son-in-law Jim Lustig said. “He could often be found in his office enjoying a cigar while reviewing the newspaper advertisements for the week.”
Throughout the years, Herb met and befriended many notable athletes and dignitaries — including Colorado native and Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White. And on occasion, Cook could be found playing a round of golf in Palm Springs, Calif., with his good friend President Gerald Ford.
In 1988, the Cook family ended years of retail rivalry with Gart Bros. and sold the operation to Thrift Corp., which had bought out Gart Bros. in 1986. The two sporting goods empires merged to create Colorado’s largest sporting goods retailer.
After leaving the sporting goods business, Cook launched HC Properties Ltd. and spent the remainder of his career in real-estate investment. He was also involved with several charities and causes including the Allied Jewish Federation, Rose Hospital and National Jewish Hospital. Along with his family, Cook sponsored the Gloria Cook Memorial Golf Tournament for several years in honor of his late wife after her passing in 1996.
Outside of work, however, Cook couldn’t leave the world of sports. For the remainder of his life he attended any sporting event he could — he was one of the original season ticket holders for the Denver Broncos and Denver Nuggets — and continued to fish and golf regularly.
Off the fairway, one of his great joys was spending time with his friends and family at his home in Cherry Creek and the Tamarisk Country Club in Palm Springs.
“Herb was a true gentleman,” Cook’s son-in-laws Richard Sapkin and Steve Farber said in a joint statement. “He loved the outdoors and all things Colorado. He is part of a generation of businessmen that helped shape Denver and the community. Many people will consider this an end of an era.”
Cook is survived by his wife Barabara Altman Cook, his three daughters Cindy Farber, Debbie Lustig, Shelly Sapkin, 8 grandchildren and 11 great-grand children.
A funeral service will be held at Temple Emanuel in Denver on Friday, July 12 at 2 p.m. The family requests that all contributions be sent to the Rose Community Foundation or the University of Colorado.