My former colleague at Newberry College and one of the four original Berries, K. Douglas (“Doug”) Cook, died this afternoon after an extended physical decline. Doug was a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he was wounded, and worked in broadcasting, public relatioins, and at the Buckley School of Public Speaking in addition to several years of work at the College, where he taught speech and directed several plays. He was a good man, and I’m glad to have known him.
I inherited Doug’s office when I got to Newberry — he was moved to a shared office (which he dubbed “Adjunct’s Alley”) across the hall, and occasionally he’d drop by to get messages that were accidentally left with me (I inherited his phone number as well.) Our acquaintance grew, due chiefly to the fact that he was a wonderful raconteur with a seemingly endless array of anecdotes about life in the Army and life in show biz (he had worked in Hollywood for a time, and briefly dated Kim Novak.)
In the early days of the Berries, Doug was the original vocalist, and also worked on learning to play bass. He never mastered that skill, but we had a hell of a lot of fun as the band straddled the line between rock combo and comedy troupe — not always intentionally. He was one of the first people I called after the death of my parents, and he was supportive through that time in my life. As the Berries became more musically focused and as Doug moved into retirement, he stepped aside from the group, but we knew we had his support and encouragement.
He and I hung out at football games, in the cafeteria, and any time we ran into one another; I remember at least once we talked in the canned goods aisle at Wal-Mart for an hour and 15 minutes. He was also scrupulously honest, even in campus matters the average adjunct would try to skate past or ignore.
I don’t think I met anyone at the college who didn’t like Doug — he was cheerful, funny, and charismatic. He made a lot of people smile, and could take a joke as well as give one. And now he’s gone, and even though we knew it was coming, his absence is palpable. Apparently, there will be a memorial service at the college chapel in the coming days. Doug is survived by his wife Pam and several other family members (Pam being the only one I’ve met.)
So long, Doug, and thanks for the music — and everything else.