Sen. Farley To Honor Amsterdam Resident At Annual Disabilities Awareness Day

Hugh T. Farley

May 01, 2008

State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R, C - Schenectady) will be honoring Ralph Cook of Amsterdam on May 6th with the New York State Senate Achievers’ Award. The prestigious award recognizes an individual’s ability to overcome personal physical challenges and honors the person’s accomplishments on behalf of his community. Last year, 26 extraordinary individuals from across New York State were recognized for their various achievements.

"The Achievers’ Award is an honor that recognizes an individual’s inner strength in overcoming challenges and is bestowed on those whose efforts serve as an example of courage, personal excellence and achievement for our entire community," said Senator Farley. "I am especially pleased to honor Ralph Cook. He has always volunteered his time to the Amsterdam community and he has not let his impaired vision hold him back."

As soon as Ralph Cook hears of people with low or no vision, he makes a point to meet them and gives them helpful information. He stresses that it is important to continue to socialize with friends and not be isolated, and to continue to do the activities that are important in their lives. A man who has always dedicated his time to the Amsterdam community, Mr. Cook continues to volunteer his talent by starting a low-vision impaired support group, Senator Farley reported.

About eight years ago, Mr. Cook’s left eye started to lose vision as he developed age-related Macular Degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. Mr. Cook’s right eye started to lose vision about five years ago. Unfortunately, he had to give up tennis, but he didn’t let his loss of vision deter him from his other life activities. A man who practices what he preaches to others, he continues to have a vegetable garden, walks his dog on a daily basis and still sings in the Mohawk Valley Chorus. The director tapes the tenor music for Mr. Cook and he memorizes it at home before performances and practices. One piece that he knows well is Handel’s "Messiah," as he has participated in the Mohawk Valley Chorus’ annual performance for the past 40 years. He and his wife are also very active in the Christ Episcopal Church, Ballston Spa, NY, where he is also in the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew and works at the Church’s second-hand shop called Noah’s Attic. He and his wife still travel and continue to take a yearly vacation in Maine. He is also an active member of the Niagara Mohawk Pension Club East, a retirement group that meets in Albany.

In 2006, he started a Low-Vision Visually Impaired Support Group that meets at the Horace J. Inman Senior Center, in Amsterdam, once a month. He has seven members and family members that meet on a regular basis. He arranges to have special speakers and information on hand for them. He has contacted associations for the blind, companies with products for the blind and various other experts from around the country to obtain information that he passes along to others who may need it. He participated in Senator Farley’s Healthy Heart Day last winter. He tries to educate people about the importance of eye health and testing eye vision often.

Mr. Cook was born in 1932 and raised in Amsterdam, NY, where he still resides. He grew up in a family that has a passion for music as his father was a charter member of the Mohawk Valley Chorus. He became active in that chorus in 1948. He graduated from Wilbur Lynch Senior High School in 1950 and went to work at Mohawk Carpet Mills, which later became known as Mohasco. He started as a weaver and later went into the engineering office as a clerk for one year before going into drafting for that business. He had started an apprenticeship course with the company but then was drafted into the Army from 1956 to 1958. While stationed in Germany, he started a Barbershop Quarter that performed several shows during his service. When he left the Army, he went back to Mohasco and finished the apprenticeship course. Unfortunately, the company downsized and Mr. Cook moved on to work for New York State as a draftsman and surveyor for some two years. He then went on to Niagara Mohawk where he was a gas planner for nearly 30 years.

During this time, he married Margaret Oathout on November 29th, 1958. They are the proud parents of two children and grandparents of four grandchildren, and they will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this fall.

Both he and his wife stayed very active with Mohawk Valley Chorus until the late 1970s. They continued their passion for music with an Ecumenical Choir in Albany for about 10 years, before returning to the Mohawk Valley Chorus in the late 1980s. Mr. Cook has been active with the Chorus both as a performer and behind the scenes as a Board Director and a past President. For two years, Mr. Cook also sang with the Inman Senior Choir.

He is a productive citizen who donates his time and talents to his community and does not want to be known for his limitations.

Senator Farley will be honoring Mr. Cook at an awards ceremony in Albany on May 6th that will be followed with a special luncheon for award recipients at noon, and recognition of award winners during the regular Senate Session that day.