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Week of October 15, 2001:
My Dad & Polite Present

Cal Crook, about 1907My father, Cal Crook, was born December 25, 1904, in Zillah, Washington. He died October 15, 2000, in Hood River, Oregon. His parents, Newton and Maude Burlingame Crook, produced five sons during their turbulent marriage.

Dad grew up in central Washington, graduating from Ellensburg High School, then went on to Normal School (later Central Washington College of Education) in Ellensburg. After graduation he spent the next four years as an elementary school principal and high school coach, later graduating from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in Education and a minor in Physical Education. Post graduate studies continued at the University of Hawaii.

In 1931 he moved to Bellingham, Washington where he helped create and direct the school district’s first audio/visual program. This allowed him to work with state-of-the-art equipment and, most importantly, develop and perfect his own skills in photography—skills which would eventually turn his hobby into a profession. He married Ethel Crook and they had four children.

Big Springs by Cal Crook

During the years he developed and fine-tuned these programs—both as the district’s audio visual director and later as an elementary principal—he began using his vacation time to travel in an effort to satisfy his insatiable curiosity about the world’s geography, people, wildlife, cultures and climates. Camping whenever possible, Dad roamed through much of the United States, Mexico, Europe, Canada and Alaska, even visiting Cuba just prior to the Castro Revolution. To the left is a photo of Big Springs, in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, one of his favorite spots for photographing the beauty of nature.

Celilo Falls 1948 by Cal CrookMom and Dad divorced about 1948. About the same time, while Dad and I were traveling through the Columbia River Gorge near Celilo Falls, I asked if we could pull over and shoot some pictures of the Native Americans dip-net fishing from wooden platforms. He did, and eleven years later, when Celilo Falls became submerged by the waters of The Dalles Dam, one of those shots became his most significant work and best-selling picture.

After retiring from his first career as an educator, he moved to B-Z Corner, an unincorporated town halfway between Trout Lake and Husum, Washington. He went to work for SDS Lumber and stayed with them for 20 years, retiring for the second time in 1990.

While Dad spent a great deal of time fishing and hunting (and those trophies were many and varied), the decision to retire his guns and fishing rods and replace them full-time with a Pentax 35mm SLR camera, was the decision he never regretted.

In 1994 at age 90, he was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. His doctor told him to slow down, but Dad was taking pictures in the Trout Lake area two weeks later. Rarely a day went by when Dad wasn’t out shooting pictures and attending to the many aspects of his photography, and while his gradual failing health slowed him down, his enthusiasm for photography and life remained picture perfect until the very end.

In his last years, he became quite spiritual, and picked up the Christian faith that he'd had much earlier in life. His relationship with his Lord gave him great strength as he dealt with a body that constantly refused his basic commands and left him in the one place he swore he'd never live: a nursing home. Yet it was here that he found a concentration of love that gave deep meaning to the last year of his life.

One year ago, surrounded by people who cared deeply about him, he stopped breathing. A CD played a favorite hymn, people were praying for him, and one shoulder lay on some flat, freshly cut evergreen boughs brought in by his friend, Larry White Eagle. My brother David (a minister) was there, and said it was one of the most quiet, peaceful passings he'd ever witnessed. We "kids" were grateful for this, since so much of Dad's life had been rocked with tragedy. Much of it we don't know about in detail, but we feel at peace that our father is finally free of the constraints that so often bound him.


Polite Present: Manual of Good Manners, 1831

Excerpts from a charming, serious 2 1/2" x 4" book published in 1831 by Munroe & Francis.


If you cannot avoid yawning, shut your mouth with your hand or handkerchief before it, turning the face aside.

Spit not in the room, but in the fire-place, or rather go out and do it abroad.

Lean not on the chair of a superior standing behind him.


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