Ethel Crook Background | Ethel's 95th Birthday Party | Tributes to Ethel Crook
A music teacher, Mother was a gifted musician (she died August 29, 2007), and contributed considerably to the cultural atmosphere of Bellingham: Whatcom Jr. High and Fairhaven Jr. High. And Ferndale. And Lynden. Whatcom County. She encouraged (forced? - ask my sister, Jan!) all of us to become involved in the world of music.
Carolyn became an accomplished pianist and flautist. I will never forget the many times Carolyn played piccolo when the high school and college bands played "Stars and Stripes Forever." David played trumpet for years, and while he stopped playing trumpet, still sings beautifully. Once Janet quit playing trumpet, she never looked back. Music was not her "thing."
In grade school, I began taking cornet/trumpet lessons, but quickly switched to French Horn, which I continued playing through two years of college. I played both in band and orchestra. I graduated from Whatcom Jr. High School to Bellingham High School, where I became involved in singing and drama. Mom was always an eager, supportive rehearsal pianist, and the biggest fan of each of her children.
A brief recap: after graduating from Bellingham Normal School (now Western Washington University) in 1930, she taught music for two years, then married Carrol Crook. She returned to teaching at Whatcom Jr. High in 1941 under a war emergency teaching certificate. Later she returned to college, completed her education, and went on to teach all the music classes at Fairhaven Jr. High.
Until recently, Mother played violin in the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, where she was also a founding member. Actually, through the years, she's played viola, 'cello, string bass and percussion in the symphony and pit orchestras. She learned and taught an amazing number of musical instruments through the years.
She's past president of the Bellingham Music Club, active in the Aftermath Club, and she's been the church organist forever, almost, at Fountain Community Church, where my brother David is pastor. Mom is not only a terrific musician, but a mentor of people and musicians of all ages. And she's a Seattle Mariners fan, as well. Click here to view photos of Mom with her Whatcom Junior High Boys Glee Clubs, 1944, 1945, and 1946
Mom loves dogs, and for a period of time raised cocker spaniels for show. In the photo to the right, I'm holding one of the puppies she raised. She became deeply involved with dog breeding, and her dogs parented some adorable pups. The entire experience of having dogs and puppies around was good for us city kids, since we rarely had the opportunity to visit farms. The Bellingham Herald photo below shows her in 1954 with the following caption: "Mrs. Ethel Crook, has planned a busy three weeks for her pet, sad-eyed sparkle Plenty, 17-month-old registered cocker spaniel. The dog will appear in shows in Vancouver, Wash., Portland, Salem, and twice in Vancouver, B.C., during that period. A few weeks ago sparkle was judged best in match at a show south of Seattle and also brought home best of variety ribbons in two other contests."
When I was in my teens, Mother bought her first car . . . a metallic maroon Chevrolet. Talk about busting her buttons! By then, she and Dad were divorced, and she was a music teacher in the Bellingham School System. This was a very important purchase for her. One day I decided to be helpful. I told her I would wax her car. Since being helpful wasn't one of my more frequent traits, Mom took advantage of my offer. I knew nothing about such things, but I'd seen neighbors industriously buffing their cars and figured I could do that. Taking a can of wax, and a rag, I carefully applied it to the entire car. I took a few breaks: this was hard work. Finally I took clean rags and began buffing, but I couldn't get the bright metallic finish to appear. In my ignorance, I'd waited too long, and ruined the finish.
I wanted to die. No such luck. I wanted to run away, but I had other commitments. I was terrified at the thought of telling Mom. When she saw the damage, she got a strange look on her faceónot angry, just kind of different. She never said a word.
This is but one example of her kindness and strength. Sometimes she made decisions that didn't work, as we all do, but she has always been there for each of her children, her family, and her friends. I honor her for that.
Copyright Judy Vorfeld.
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