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The Mid Atlantic Beef and Dairy Farmer a supplement to the Delmarva Farmer

Harford County vet remembered as beloved ag community booster

By JONATHAN CRIBBS
Associate Editor

BEL AIR, Md. (Feb. 28, 2017) — Dr. Richard O. Cook, a long-time, beloved veterinarian who helped resurrect Harford County’s farm fair, died last week. He was 86 years old.
Cook, who ran Bel Air Veterinary Hospital and practiced for 60 years, died from heart-related issues on the morning of Feb. 20, said his son, Eric Cook. He was well-known in the county’s dairy and equestrian communities for his deep and lifelong commitment to animal husbandry and a sacrificial schedule that routinely required 12- to 14-hour days, he said.
“He loved what he did,” Eric Cook said. “He handled it well. He still got up everyday, worked in the field, did surgeries in the afternoon and at night he took walk-ins.”
Tributes poured in on the hospital’s Facebook page in the days after his death. Stories of late-night emergency surgeries that saved beloved pets, free medical care for injured wild animals and admiration from members of the agricultural community.
“No words right now,” Marv Egolf wrote. “Just holding back tears at work. A 65 year old man crying in his cubicle at (Aberdeen Proving Ground) may be disconcerting to anyone who didn’t know this wonderful man.”
Egolf said Richard Cook had been an inspiration to his daughter, a student in the University of Pennsylvania’s large animal veterinary program. Nearly 700 users shared a photo of him with news of his death.
“Harford County and 4H lost a true friend and icon,” Tom Bachman wrote. “Enjoy the green pastures.”
Cook was raised in Scranton, Pa., his son said. He grew up with an appreciation for hunting and, eventually, conservation — an interest that would later lead him internationally on safaris and hunts in South America, Alaska, Africa and Mexico. He was also an Eagle Scout and, later, a scout master. He received a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in animal husbandry and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania.
He first came to Maryland to work for a veterinarian in Jarrettsville in 1957, Eric Cook said. He took over the Bel Air hospital in 1960. He mostly dealt with large animals but was known to frequently treat wild animals locals brought in for care. He also lived on a nearby farm that still raises eggs and Belgian draft horses, his son said.
“Growing up, we had a menagerie of wildlife that were rehabbed on the farm,” Eric Cook said. “Most of the time, they were re-released into the environment. I can’t even tell you how many critters I grew up with.”
After it had been dormant for 20 years, Cook resurrected the county’s farm fair in the mid-1980s and became its first chairman and chief fundraiser. He was involved with the county’s 4-H program and sponsored a scholarship in veterinary technology at Harford Community College, his son said.
“He served his community better than most men I know,” he said. “He believed in that. He believed in agriculture, and he believed in education.”
Survivors include his wife Bonnie DaLee Watts Cook; daughter Susan Cook Dorsey, of Baltimore, and her husband; son Eric Cook, of Bel Air, and his wife; step-daughter Crickett Love Rayne, of Salisbury, and her husband; plus four grandchildren.
A viewing was held at Zellman Funeral Home in Havre de Grace on Feb. 23. Services were private. Contributions may be made in his memory to Shriners Children’s Hospitals, Boumi Temple, 5050 King Ave., Baltimore, MD 2137.