What makes a legend?

December 19, 2002|by ANDREW MASON


Very few people attain the status of "living legend."

The great ones only come around so often.

Tim Cook, who taught me running and geometry more than a decade ago at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, was one of them.

But you had to watch closely to figure it out, because you never heard it from him.

Tim Cook didn't talk about being Chambersburg High's first-ever Pennsylvania state champion after winning the two-mile track title in 1971. And he never said a word about being an All-American runner for the College of William & Mary, which recently inducted him into its athletic hall of fame.


If you ran a local road race any time in the last four decades, you might never know that Tim Cook won it. He was always too far in front, and afterward he was more interested in your performance.

Tim Cook never bragged about the unparalleled success he had in his nearly 30 years of coaching Chambersburg's girls track & field and cross country programs, which went a combined 419-64-2 with two state titles, 10 District 3 crowns and 20 league championships under his guidance. The individual accolades amassed by his athletes are too numerous to list.

But all those accomplishments are just a fraction of why Tim Cook is a legend.

Tim Cook is a legend because he never said an unkind word. Because he never greeted anybody without sincere warmth. Because he had rivals, not enemies.

Tim Cook is a legend because even when he didn't win, he didn't lose. Because effort to him was more important than result. Because sportsmanship was more important than victory.

Tim Cook is a legend because he was always swarmed by a flock of young people. Because the school bus was packed, three to a seat, when his cross country team hit the road. Because he coached from top to bottom, back and forth. Because his last runner was as important as his first.

Tim Cook is a legend because when he spoke, people listened. Because when he raised his voice, he got silence. Because he was a man of respect and honor.

Tim Cook is why I'm just one of thousands who haven't felt right the last several days and probably won't for a while.

Tim Cook and his wife Susan were killed in an automobile accident last Friday night. Both were 49.

They left behind two children in college ... and enough impact to move mountains for decades to come.


(Editor's note: A community memorial service for the Cooks will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Chambersburg Area Senior High School auditorium.)

Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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