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Richard Cook, bastion of business, dies at 91

SANTA FE, N.M. — Richard P. Cook, a bastion of Española’s business community for decades, passed away on Monday at age 91, his family has disclosed.

His widespread interests in northern New Mexico have included Española Transiit Mix, a concrete, sand and gravel supplier; the Cook’s Home Center hardware store; his role as a founding member of Valley National Bank; and land development projects across the region.

Richard Cook

Richard Cook

“I would say that Richard Cook was a giant in northern New Mexico commerce,” said Joseph Maestas, the former Española mayor who now serves as a Santa Fe city councilor.

Maestas noted that Cook had lived in a modest house on Española’s west side for decades “even though he was probably a millionaire several times over.”

Katharine Fishman, Cook’s daughter, said, “If you transferred him to a big city, you would never know how successful he was.”

“He wore the same things all the time – jeans and button-down shirts,” she said. Fishman said Cook also drove the “ugliest cars” that were dirty inside from rock samples he carried around. “He would always be prospecting,” she said.

Fishman said her father’s life will be celebrated on Saturday with a parade through Española featuring Cook’s varied vehicle fleet – cement mixers, flat-bed trucks, and trucks and trailers from mining operations. Other truckers who worked with him and possibly a couple of firetrucks – Cook was volunteer firefighter – also may join in, she said.

The parade will start at noon and, at 1 p.m., there will be a community celebration at the Ohkay Owingeh Hotel Resort and Casino Ballroom.

Cook, a native of Española, was a World War II-era Navy veteran. He was often in the news in relation to his business projects, including numerous tussles with local and state regulators over his mining operations. He and his family have been working in recent years on a planned 420-acre commercial development near the Santa Fe Airport, including by constructing the state’s first privately funded freeway interchange at Jaguar Drive and N.M. 599.

“I think he was the single largest private sector employer, probably in northern New Mexico,” said Fishman.