Kenneth Gordon Cookson was born in Lougheed on February 6, 1927, to Herbert and Catherine (nee Brown) Cookson. Ken was the oldest of 4 children and is survived by his wife Betty of 73 years, of Lacombe.
Ken is survived by his 3 children Dave (Lois), Allen, and Herbert (Michelle), daughter-in-law Tevika, grandchildren Susan, Mark, Andy, Brianne, Corey, Kyle, and Nicholas, as well as 9 great-grandchildren.
Ken was pre-deceased by his parents, his siblings Norman, Jack, and Margaret, his son Larry, and his daughter-in-law Val.
Ken was raised on a farm in Lougheed, where he learned the value of hard work. The family moved to Tees in 1942, when Ken was 15 years old. Ken and Betty were married on October 20, 1949, and Ken continued to farm in Tees, truck cattle, coal, and grain, as well as custom farm. Ken had many interests in his life, one of them being auctioneering. Ken went to the United States to take an auctioneering course, and in a few short weeks, he finished the course and obtained his certification. In 1965, Ken acquired an interest in the Lacombe Auction Mart, and later started Ken’s Auction Sales. In 1966, after the accident where Ken lost an eye, they decided to move to Lacombe, where Ken continued to work as an auctioneer for many years. While they were still living on the farm, Ken obtained his pilots license, and over the years he owned 7 airplanes, and experienced many flying adventures. He flew to many places, some of the highlights including Alaska and Mexico. Somewhere in their travels, Ken managed to fly into restricted airspace and got escorted out by a fighter jet! In later years, Ken acquired a love for Honda motorcycles and drove across Canada. He also loved camping, and one of their favorite places to go every year was Radium.
Ken was a vivacious man who loved life, and he was fortunate enough to be able to live at home, like he wanted, right up until the day he passed away. There was no one like Ken, and he will be greatly missed.
Tribute to Ken Gordon Cookson
Feb. 6, 1927 – Sept. 1, 2023
Written by Susan (Cookson) Richelhoff, eldest grandchild
From a young age, I can remember my mom and dad always saying “They broke the mold when they made Grandpa”, a statement that has long proven to be true. I’ve never met anyone else like Grandpa. Our family and this community have lost an amazing, one-of-a-kind man. He made us laugh, teased us, and taught us the importance of having a strong work ethic, modeling that determination and perseverance through life were keys to being successful.
Grandpa always had a story to tell to make people laugh, and there’s one in particular that I heard many times over the years about grandpa and I (he even told it at my wedding!). Grandpa always called me his “stubborn little redhead”, and apparently when I was quite young, I was in trouble for something with my mom, so my grandpa “dragged me up over the hill” at our acreage to talk some sense into me. What I know for sure, as I write this today, is that talking with my grandpa always made me feel better. Whether it was simply chatting, or talking about hard issues, he had a way of always helping me see the big picture, making me laugh, and ultimately seeing what was most important.
Grandpa worked extremely hard his entire life, from working on the farm, to running the auction mart and Ken’s Auction Sales, to maintaining their beautiful yard in their house in town. As grandpa grew older, it frustrated him that he couldn’t do all the things he wanted to, and used to be able to do with such ease. But he would always find a way to get tasks done. He never gave up. In the last few years, I learned to be careful about telling him anything that was wrong with my house or my vehicle, because he would stay up thinking about the problem at hand, and then inevitably I would get a phone call the next morning, and over he’d come to try and fix the problem himself!
One of the things I’ve always known without question is how much grandpa loved grandma. He treated her like a princess, took care of her, and in the last year, he would exclaim to everyone we met, how he’d been married to “his bride” for 73 wonderful years. The joke would then follow as to who put up with whom for that long, and they would both tease each other and laugh. My oldest daughter, Mckenna, stated at their 70th wedding anniversary, that she aspired to have a relationship like grandma and grandpa’s someday. Just a few weeks ago, grandpa was telling me how he still held grandma’s hand in bed every night, and how he tried to steal a smooch every now and then! One of my kids’ favorite stories that grandpa told repeatedly, is how he pretended to run out of gas when he took grandma out on one of their first dates. He said he wanted to try for a kiss, so he thought a good way to initiate that was to pretend they were out of gas! We’re still not sure if grandma really believed he ran out of gas…
One of my Uncle Allen’s (grandma and grandpa’s son) favorite stories was about how grandma and grandpa met. Grandpa was playing baseball with the boys and the other team was short a player, so Grandma played for them. I guess she was wearing shorts. Grandpa said when he saw those legs, he knew that she was the girl for him. Nothing to do with baseball skills… (as grandpa was very competitive, and tried hard to get grandma out) it was all about the legs. Another of his favorite stories is about a date gone wrong – when grandma and grandpa were dating, they went swimming at a nearby lake. Of course, grandpa was trying to impress Grandma with his swimming skills, but apparently he wasn’t as good as he thought, and if it weren’t for another girl who dove in and saved him, none of us would be around today!
Grandpa did many amazing things in his lifetime, one of them being the first Canadian to obtain his pilot’s licence with one eye. I loved hearing his stories about the adventures he and grandma had, flying to different places. A few stories in particular stand out. On one trip coming home from Sicamous, Grandpa REALLY needed to use the washroom, and didn’t want to land the plane to do it. So he decided that grandma should fly the plane while he tried to “pee in the sicky bag”. Apparently grandma wasn’t keeping the plane steady enough, so he couldn’t aim properly, and it took him about half an hour to be successful. As for grandma’s future as a pilot, according to grandpa, “I never paid her a cent after that, she was NOT a good pilot.”
On another trip home one time, Grandpa started having problems with his plane and had to make an emergency landing in a farmer’s field in Saskatchewan. He seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but stumbled on an old trapper’s cabin. The man welcomed him in, and offered grandpa a place to sleep for the night. Apparently the man was in the middle of skinning a coyote on the kitchen table, and according to Grandpa, the man was a single guy, and a bit odd, but Grandpa was grateful for his hospitality. Unfortunately the blanket/bed he was given to sleep in seemed to be lice-infested, (or with something that sent Grandpa into a scratching fit). In the morning, he was highly motivated to get out of there so he got up and fixed whatever the problem was with the plane himself and then flew home. Grandpa was very resourceful and could fix just about anything!
Grandpa was always very physically strong, and he survived many accidents in his lifetime. One of the scariest ones was when he was driving his VW Rabbit car home one night and he hit a horse. The horse came through the windshield and hit him in the face. My dad recalls seeing the wreckage after the accident, and being amazed that anyone could have survived that. In fact, grandpa had gripped the steering wheel so hard that the entire thing was bent sideways toward the passenger side of the car. Most of the bones in grandpa’s face were broken, so he had to undergo surgery at the U of A hospital in Edmonton. Grandpa needed to have his face reconstructed, so grandma had to bring a picture of grandpa to the surgery team so they knew how to rebuild his face to look the same. After surgery, his jaw was wired shut, so chocolate milkshakes through a straw became his go-to meal. During his stay there, Grandpa’s glass eye went missing. I think perhaps one of the nurses saw his eye in the glass by his beside and threw it out, thinking it was a joke of some kind!? Even though this accident would’ve been a scary set-back for anyone, grandpa showed incredible strength through it all and never let it stop him.
I have learned so many things from grandpa. He was legendary. He lived an incredible life. I loved him deeply and will miss him terribly. I will carry the memories of him with me forever.
Who Grandpa was…
~ a man with such a quick wit and charm, able to make anyone he came in contact with laugh
~ very organized, took very good care of his things – his truck, grandma’s car, their home, garage, and backyard
~ loved music, and dancing with grandma
~ loved animals, especially birds and their dog Penny (not so much crows, stray cats and skunks!)
~ loved watching his “nature programs”, which sometimes would bring him to tears
~ had a loud booming voice, and always lit up the room no matter where he went
~ was an extremely hard worker, and great businessman
~ very determined – never gave up
~ very hospitable, made others feel welcome in his home
~ could be very blunt, had a way of always “telling it like it is”. His words sometimes stung but were usually the truth, and you always knew where you stood and that you were loved.
~ patience when he wanted something done wasn’t always his strong point but his patience to see something through was unbelievable
~ loved his neighbors and was always willing to lend a helping hand to everyone around him. He loved a project.
~ loved camping, first with the big motorhome, and then in their 5th wheel trailer
~ loved his Honda motorcycle, and enjoyed many trips with grandma
~ loved his “cheese cooked on bread” with lots of pepper and vinegar, also ice cream and anything made of chocolate!
~ he was so proud of his 4 boys, loved his grandkids, and delighted in his great-grandkids
~ had an incredible love for his “bride” of 73 years
What Grandpa taught me…
~ the value of a dollar, hard work, having no debt, and paying your bills ahead of time
~ pretty much anything can be fixed with a little duct tape and silicone
~ enjoy the little things in life
~ laughter is so important
~ slow down and appreciate the things that really matter, like sharing a cup of tea and chatting about “the good old days”
~ life isn’t perfect, but you get through the hard times and come out stronger on the other side
~ at the end of the day, family is the most important thing in life
~ being a little “fiery” can be a good thing
~ never, ever give up
~ tomorrow is always a new day
Famous last words from Grandpa…
~ “You fly with the crows you get shot with the crows”
~ “For corn’s sake!”
~ “What in the Sam hill!?”
~ “I was always such a handsome guy. Look at my beautiful legs!”
~ “That nurse said my feet were the finest feet she’d ever seen on a 96-year-old!”
~ “Those were the good ol’ days!”
~ “Never give up. People give up too easily nowadays.”
~ “You gotta laugh in this life, Suz.”
~ “I’ve lived a beautiful life. I have no regrets.”
Tribute by Andy Cookson
Grandpa was always larger than life. Big & boisterous - there was no place we went in Lacombe (for the summers I spent there visiting) that people didn't know him by name. If there was, they would soon learn it quickly and never forget it. Post office, auction mart, grocery store, The Creamery - wherever Grandpa was, he was no stranger.
Grandpa had 100 percent control of the TV in his house. If it were allowed to be clicked on while there was still sunlight pouring through the windows - it was only for a nature program. I would sit in the recliner next to his, hands wrapped tightly around a stale glass of Zellers cola, waiting for the moment where I would see his head bob and the opportunity to reach over and change the channel to something else would arise. The problem was that with the glass eye - the only way to be sure if he was sleeping would be to go around, past the dining table, through the kitchen and pop your head through the other doorway to confirm that he was in fact asleep. It always seemed like the best way to do it at the time, and the success rate was always zero. By the time I got up and walked around the kitchen to his other side it would be enough to stir him. I would reach for the remote control watching his face closely and just as I would get my hand around the remote - his good eye would shoot open and his hand would instantly move into the 'crab hold' formation and attack my thigh.
The 'crab hold' was sporadic, and always not fun. I am not sure how Grandpa arrived at the idea that the way to 'have fun' with the grandkids was to use his big strong farm hands (with tensile strength like vice grips) to squeeze their doughy thighs - but even in spite of our responses he still kept trying it. Sometimes he would do it as you walked past the recliner - so you had to be quick. Uncle Larry once spent a few days at the house that overlapped my time there. He showed me a few self defense moves (for reasons I am still not sure of) and one in particular involved taking your thumb and pressing hard down on the webbing between the attacker's thumb and first finger. The next time Grandpa hit me with the 'crab hold' I tried out Uncle Larry's move and he let out a loud yelp. Grandpa chased me probably for 10 minutes around the house that day.
It was a gift to see how much love he and Grandma had for each other throughout the years. When she was in the hospital this past fall it was so beautiful to see how deeply they still cared for each other. It was on one of those visits where I have my last memory of Grandpa. We had just finished up a visit with Grandma and Dad, Uncle Dave and I were taking Grandpa out of the hospital and he needed to stop at the washroom before hitting the road. Dad went to another washroom a bit further away. I stood with Uncle Dave chatting for a moment when a woman came frantically down the hallway. She was in desperate need of a washroom and rather than knocking and waiting, she was jostling handles and hitting buttons like she was in a casino. Luckily, the design of the bathroom was that even if you hit the button to automatically open the door the lock on the inside would prevent it from opening. Unluckily for Grandpa, he missed locking the door and the power assistance opened up that door VERY SLOWLY as he was unfortunately perched on the toilet for all to see. The woman was fighting to try and close the door and apologizing but it was no use - it would not close until it was fully opened.
That was Grandpa for you - leaving a lasting impression on everyone he met. Whether it was through sharing a joke, chatting about the local events or just merely his presence. Ken Cookson was full of life, and added to it everywhere he went.