WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Zane Cook was a hard worker who valued family and friends and had a passion for hunting, fishing, motorcycles and working on cars.
In his 27 years, he made an impression on people from all walks of life.
“He touched a lot of people,” mother Darlene Cook of Waynesboro said of Zane, the second of John and Darlene Cook’s three children.
“He’s always been so kind and willing to befriend people, even if they weren’t the most popular,” said sister Tabitha Ulrich of Waynesboro. “He had so many friends. Everyone he met, he touched.
“He was a good uncle. I have two boys, and they just loved him.”
The large turnout for Zane’s viewing and funeral, along with the many thoughtful online condolences and memorial candles on the funeral home website are an indication of the number of people whose lives he touched.
Donna Coldsmith’s son, Matt Coldsmith, and Zane had been friends since they were 2 or 3 years old, and went to elementary and middle school together in Chambersburg, Pa. Donna was like a “second mother” to Zane, Darlene said.
“We love each other like family,” Donna said.
Even though there were four years’ difference between Zane and his younger brother, Derek Cook, Matt let Derek tag along on their adventures.
“We did a lot of stuff together. We got really close as we got older,” Derek said. “We were so like-minded. If he liked something, we both did. He’d give you his last dollar and the shirt off his back. A lot of people were just drawn to him.”
Donna said the first time Zane went out hunting, he got his first buck.
“He was all boy. Anything manly, he loved,” she said.
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t want to clean out his pockets before laundry,” Darlene said, recalling the worms, bugs and toads she often would find.
Zane also played baseball and football, and cheered for the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Braves.
When the Cooks moved from Chambersburg to Waynesboro, Darlene said she had to promise her children that she would take them to visit their friends every weekend.
“They kept me to that promise,” Darlene said.
“We’d love to get together and have meals,” Donna said. “He was very into family and friends.”
During his high school years, Zane worked at the Coldsmiths’ excavation company, Coldsmith Construction Co. Inc., where he learned his work ethic.
“He learned to use a shovel. He learned to work,” said Donna, who noted that Zane was a fast learner.
After four years, Zane was ready for the next step, and in 2003, he got a job with Manitowoc Co. in Shady Grove, Pa.
Zane was in the process of buying his first house when everything he ate made him sick. Initially, the doctor thought Zane had ulcers, which Darlene said made sense because there were a lot of changes ahead for him.
As the symptoms continued, they took him to Washington County Hospital in October 2010, where he was diagnosed with gastric cancer, and sent to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
The disease started in his stomach and spread to his colon, lymph nodes and liver. It was a stage 4 cancer by the time it was discovered, Darlene said.
“We found a lot of kindness during his illness, between family, friends and work,” Darlene said.
Co-workers at Manitowoc Co. did raffles and various fundraisers to help Zane with medical expenses. Zane was so sick, though, that he no longer could work, although he talked about when he could get back on the job.
Even after his cancer diagnosis, Zane and an uncle talked about getting additional training together to help them advance in their jobs, Tabitha said.
Zane had a steady stream of visitors throughout his illness. Even though his doctors said most patients diagnosed with gastric cancer live only four to five months beyond the diagnosis, Zane fought the disease for 20 months.
At his last doctor’s appointment, Zane was told of the possibility of joining a clinical trial for experimental medications.
“He was astounding his doctors,” Darlene said.
Tabitha, who is a licensed practical nurse, came before and after work to give Zane his shots.
“We’ve always been there for each other. We’re a close-knit family,” Tabitha said. “When I found out he was sick, I didn’t want anyone else taking care of him.”
Throughout his illness, Zane never lost his sense of humor and mischievous side.
“He made it really easy on my mom and I to take care of him,” Tabitha said. “He made it a part of life, not ‘poor me.’”
Darlene said he always was teasing the nurses, and even at the height of his illness, he would pull pranks on Darlene and Donna.
“He was mischievous, he really was,” Donna said. “At the same time, he was loving and caring. He worried about his family and friends.”
Zane had been involved in the family’s church, Mount Vernon Christian & Missionary Alliance Church in Shippensburg, Pa., when he was younger. Darlene said he had wanted to attend church, but it took several hours each morning after taking his medications before he could get up and not be nauseated.
During the winter months of his illness, the Tuesday night prayer group at the church would visit him.
“He was on a lot of prayer lists,” Donna said.
Zane had a private side, as well as being fiercely independent.
“There was a very serious side to Zane,” Donna said. “He was very determined. I’d tell him he was such a hardhead.”
Looking back, Darlene said there were times she wondered how she was going to get through “willful” phases of raising Zane. In hindsight, it was that willfulness that helped him battle cancer.
“He never complained, never said, ‘Why me?’ He said, ‘I’m going to fight it.’” Darlene said.
Darlene said six months after his diagnosis, Zane traded his motorcycle for an Eagle Talon that he was going to “soup up” when he got better. Derek, a mechanic by trade, and Zane talked about opening a garage together to build high-performance cars when Zane got better, Darlene said.
“He never, ever gave up,” Donna said. “It wasn’t a side of Zane. He wanted to be strong around his family and friends. He never lost faith.”
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Zane A. Cook, who died June 17 at the age of 27. His obituary was published in the June 20 edition of The Herald-Mail.