John W. Cook, engaged in the insurance business in the Merchants Exchange building in St. Louis, was born in Fayette county, Ohio, July 20, 1878. His father, Major James F. Cook, who served the Union cause with distinction in the Civil war, was a farmer and a republican political leader. His mother, Mary Augusta (Myers) Cook, was the daughter of the Hon. John L. Myers of Ohio.
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Mr. Cook was educated in the public schools of Washington Court House, Ohio, supplemented by a business college course in St. Louis. In 1899 Mr. Cook located in St. Louis, engaging in the real estate and insurance business. He was the first manager of the Frisco building, Ninth and Olive streets, but resigned this position to engage exclusively in the insurance field.
At the outbreak of the Spanish-American war Mr. Cook responded to President McKinley’s first call for volunteers. He saw active service in the Rest. Indies campaign, with the First Division of the Army of the Gulf, as a member of the Fourth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Studying the trend of the times Mr. Cook foresaw America’s entrance into the World war, and, believing that all men up to forty-five years of age would be called for service, he began individual preparations by taking a course in the officers’ training school of the First Missouri National Guard, after which he went to the federal training camp at Plattsburg, New York, for further instruction. On his return to St. Louis he assisted in the organization of the First Regiment, Missouri Home Guard, and later was transferred to the Third Regiment, Missouri Home Guard, as company commander. He took an active part in all of the Liberty bond and Red Cross campaigns, and acted as military instructor under the Military Training Camps’ Association, which did valuable work in instructing the drafted men during the waiting period between the time they were selected and sent to camp. Not being satisfied with this form of service to his country in a critical period, he volunteered for active service, was accepted and ordered to Camp Pike, Arkansas, where he was when the armistice was signed. He has the distinction of being a volunteer in both the Spanish-American and World wars, and has been awarded both the Spanish war medal and the Victory medal. After his discharge from the army Mr. Cook returned to St. Louis, reentered the insurance field and is now conducting a most successful business, handling all kinds of insurance.
On the 8th of September, 1903, Mr. Cook was married to Miss Helen Louise Harris, a daughter of Christopher C. and Annie (Chickering) Harris, of Webster Groves, Missouri. Mr. and Mrs. Cook have two children, John Willis, Jr., and Virginia Leigh.
Mr. Cook is a thirty-second degree Mason, a Knight Templar, a Shriner and a member of the Eastern Star, and has held various official positions in connection with Masonry, being a past master and a past high priest. He is also an active member of the Emmanuel Episcopal church of Webster Groves and belongs to the Algonquin Golf Club, Sunset Hill Country Club, Ohio Society of St. Louis, Chamber of Commerce, Automobile Club, City Club, Zoological Society of St. Louis, American Veterans of Foreign Service and the American Legion. He has been a lifelong republican, but never an office seeker. His membership relations indicate the nature and breadth of his interests. For twenty-one years Mr. Cook has been a citizen of St. Louis, highly esteemed in business circles, and in every relation of life he has measured up to advanced standards, proving himself one hundred per cent American in every particular.