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Friends share memories of Steve Cook, Shaw Middle School substitute who died last week

Felts Field lies alongside the Spokane River. Friends are considering the field as a site for the ashes of Steven Lynn Cook, who died of a heart attack on Oct. 3. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Felts Field lies alongside the Spokane River. Friends are considering the field as a site for the ashes of Steven Lynn Cook, who died of a heart attack on Oct. 3. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Steve Cook may have died without next-of-kin, but he wasn’t without friends.

And someday soon, they hope to spread his ashes over the places he loved, from Felts Field to Deer Park and across the friendly skies of Spokane County.

A substitute teacher at Shaw Middle School, the 55-year-old Cook died at the school on Oct. 3 of a heart attack caused by atherosclerotic coronary vascular disease.

Since then, neither the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office nor Spokane Public Schools has been able to locate a living relative, even though Cook was adopted and raised in Spokane and spent most of his life in the area.

By all accounts, his was quite a life. Cook was certified in sign language, lived in Florida, Oregon, Texas and even worked briefly as a teacher in China. He also volunteered for the Red Cross.

“Steve was just an ordinary guy,” said Mary Fisher, who’d known Cook for 25 years. “He made friends wherever he worked, but he never seemed to develop lasting friends.”

Most of his life is a mystery, even to those who knew him best. The identity of his birth parents is still unknown, and his adoptive parents were in their late 40s when Cook was adopted as an infant in 1963.

As of Wednesday, his friends were unable to locate any photographs of Cook, who graduated from North Central High School.

He also had health problems. At least 6-foot-2 and overweight, Cook was diabetic and once suffered a case of sepsis that required amputation of a foot.

Despite those issues, Cook had a passion for flying. He volunteered at the Felts Field Museum, enjoyed flying radio-controlled airplanes, and worked at B&B Hobbies on North Francis Avenue.

Cook’s passion for flying was sometimes eccentric. B&B owner Bryan Batch said that a few years ago, Cook booked a flight on a commercial plane, then allowed himself to get “bumped” so many times he earned enough bonus miles to see most of the country.

“He was gone for a month,” Batch recalled.

“He was a little different, but we’ve been friends for years and years,” Batch said.

In the absence of blood relatives, Batch is stepping up to give his old friend a proper sendoff. Every year, several Spokane County residents die without next of kin, and their remains are buried in a pauper’s field.

Not so for Cook. Batch will pay for Cook’s cremation.

As for the remains, “maybe we’ll get a Cessna and spread his ashes over Felts Field and the (radio-controlled) field in Deer Park,” Batch said. “I think he would have liked that.”

Anyone interested in helping offset the cost of Cook’s cremation can call B&B Hobbies at (509) 487-2122.


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