Cari Cook Memorial Website

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Welcome to the Cari Lyn Cook (Stevens) Website

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This website has been created to honor and celebrate the life of Cari Lyn Cook.   With her infectious laugh, limitless smiles, and undaunting love of her family and friends, Cari is sorely missed.

She was a proud mother of two young children - and as a parent her love, selflessness and patience with them was limitless.  She lived for her children.  Like the family she grew up in, it was her dream to create a big and loving family of her own.

Her husband and best friend knew that they would be spending their entire lives together enjoying their family, friends, trips to the park & zoo, vacations, parties, baseball and football games, and even all the struggles that they would face along the way.  Life for them was perfect and the love he had for her can never be replaced.  Their beautiful kids are constant reminders of her presence.


Her mom, sisters, and brother were a constant part of her life.  Never a day would go by without visiting or talking to multiple members of her family.  Every single conversation with Matt, family and friends ended with bye, I love you, for without it the conversation would not end.  Every time someone entered the room or visited the house or just drove by on the street, they were greeted with a hello or a wave of the hand.  This special effort made certain that everyone felt welcome and knew that she cared and loved for them with all her heart.  Unfortunately, the day she left us the only communication was a kiss and goodbye from her husband as she lay in bed before he left for work.

She was a friend, a teacher, and a waitress.  She was so real and was never afraid to offer her true and honest opinion.  She touched the lives of many different people; her husband, her family, her friends, the children she taught, her co-workers and so many more.  Her love, her passion, her laughter, her smile, her personality, and her effort to keep in constant contact with distant friends will never be forgotten.

Please join us in this ongoing celebration of Cari’s life.  You are invited to make a contribution to the Cook Family Fund, view some of the many photographs, sign the guestbook, or sign up to stay connected to some of the many loved ones that Cari so dearly loved.

Support the Cook Family and get your "Family, Cari, Friends" wristband to help remember Cari's legacy!

Friends Cari Family BraceletAlthough Carson and Ellie will have the love and support of many friends and family, life will not be easy as Matt tries to raise two young children while providing for his family. While the Cook family grieves the loss of Cari, please consider supporting them through a donation to the Cook Family Fund, which has been set up to cover future expenses that may include education, child care, medical, or any other costs related to the needs of the children. Donate $25 or more and receive the wristband as pictured above. This custom bracelet is purple with the very fitting words "Family, Cari, Friends" across the front and "Slow down, enjoy life" on the back.



To order your bracelet please donate via the Paypal button below

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Questions/Comments? Send us an e-mail at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Checks can be made payable to the Cook Family Fund
 

Making roads, especially 47th Street, safer takes everybody’s cooperation

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It’s a basic four-lane road. Except it isn’t so basic.

47th Street is, like many arterial roadways in the Chicago area, a busily traveled thoroughfare that slices through several communities. But for many of us who live in La Grange, 47th street is a lightning rod of sorts, attracting controversy and, sadly, tragedy.

People are injured and killed on streets virtually every day in this country and probably even in our major metropolitan area. But when residents are hurt or die from injuries sustained when crossing one particular street in the village, it becomes a big deal.

There are still flowers and a cross marking the spot where young mom Cari Cook was killed crossing 47th with her children in 2009. This last weekend, a local tennis tournament was held in the name of Emily Kandemir, who died in 2003 when crossing her bike at 47th Street and Willow Springs Road. Headlines in this newspaper refer to a 9-year-old girl who was struck by a car as she and her brother attempted to leave Waiola Park after this year’s July 3 fireworks show.

That girl’s mother, Bobbie Goettler, says the need to emphasize safety along 47th Street is as strong as ever.

“As my husband said, ‘You don’t want every crosswalk on 47th Street to be a memorial.’ It’s time to prevent the next major accident,” declares Goettler, who says that her daughter is slowly improving after suffering a concussion and some brain swelling.

As I’ve written in this column before, I’ve seen countless near-misses involving vehicles and pedestrians, joggers and cyclists on 47th. I can’t stand the idea of letting my children cross that road unsupervised, no matter how old they are.

That sentiment is shared.

“After my daughter was hit, I talked to several parents who said, ‘I hate that street. I will never allow my kids to cross it alone,’” Goettler says.

That said, there are two sides to every street, as it may be.

Michael Holub, chief of the La Grange Police Department, says that 47th Street is unique because of the spacing of the lights. ”It’s a long way between marked intersections,’ he says, noting that, in comparison, stoplights are closer together across Ogden Avenue.

Still, he notes, cars barreling down 47th Street at high rates of speed aren’t the pinpointed cause of serious accidents involving pedestrians. Several traffic studies conducted in town have shown that the average vehicle speed along 47th is 33 miles per hour, according to Holub.

In the final analysis, myriad factors have contributed to accidents on 47th and the general unease residents feel when navigating that route on foot or on two wheels.

For one thing, while they may not be speeding, many drivers are prone to distraction.

“In general, you have so many people on their cell phones and impatient when they drive, wanting to get there even a half second earlier,” says Goettler.

Pedestrians and cyclists can be more careful, too. Just recently, I saw a dad pushing a jogging stroller who I felt cut it way too close when he crossed 47th without a light or crossing. Earlier this month, during the power outage when the streets were pitch black, I was scared out of my wits to encounter a man — dressed in dark clothing without any reflectors — jogging into a crossing at 47th as I was trying to make a left-hand turn after 9 p.m.

Holub has witnessed similar situations: “I saw a young mom yesterday, with two kids in a wagon crossing 47th Street one block off the light at La Grange Road.’”

In my admittedly humble opinion, it seems that a combination of safety measures may help cut down on trouble along 47th Street. People of all ages can and should look both ways when crossing and only cross when it’s totally clear. Drivers should drive defensively, reducing distractions and exercising patience.

Continued strong enforcement by police and extra patrols during special events like the fireworks or Pet Parade can also help guard against future incidents. Meanwhile, a proposed crosswalk at 47th Street and Waiola Avenue is awaiting final funding and implementation, something I hope will make people more cautious all the way around.

“I definitely think a crosswalk is needed. Waiola is a popular park and there are so many families with children that live north of 47th who would like to go there,” says Goettler.

Ultimately and hopefully, keeping 47th street safety in the public consciousness can help make it safer as well.

“You’re not going to be able to use that roadway as if it were a side street but if people are talking about it, it may raise awareness,” says Holub.

Goettler, as she helps daughter recover, also underscores a collaborative, multifaceted and proactive approach.

“It’s not just raising awareness for officials, but raising community awareness, in the fact that this little girl was hit. In a community like this, which is so family focused, you can pull together to effect change.”

(630) 320-5448 • This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

Carrying on without Cari / Raising Kids Alone / Raising families without Mom

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Young father struggles to raise 2 kids after his wife's tragic death

Source: Chicago Tribune 11/9/2010 (Vikki Ortiz)

On the morning of May 19, 2009, a driver struck and killed Cook's wife, Cari, as she pushed Ellie in a stroller with Carson, then 4 months old, strapped to her chest. They were blocks from their home in west suburban Countryside.

In an instant, Matt Cook, now 32, unwillingly joined the ranks of a statistically rare group: widowed young fathers.

Less than 4 percent of the 700,000 newly widowed people each year are under the age of 35, according to the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, a national network that offers support for the grieving. Because men are less likely to seek out help, it's hard to determine what number of the young survivors are male and raising small children, said Michele Neff Hernandez, the foundation's executive director.

But members of that small population are starting to find each other and seek help dealing with their losses. Two years ago, at the group's first national gathering, which brought together hundreds of people from around the world, only one man attended. Last year, there were 10.

Cook understands. He knows what it's like to be a man on his own, navigating a life he never expected.

"It's like you're walking a thin line between just totally breaking down and being OK," he said. "It isn't moving on, it's just living. We had to keep living, I guess."

•••

Five years ago, Matt and Cari Cook were living exactly the life they wanted.

Cari was loud, fun-loving and outgoing; a perfect complement to Matt, who is more reserved. He proposed at Carmine's in Chicago, then surprised her with family and friends waiting to celebrate at the John Barleycorn bar. The couple married in Cancun in January 2006, then settled into Matt's Wrigleyville condo.

When they learned they were expecting their first child, Cari joked that she couldn't push a baby buggy "on the corner of Crazy and Insane," their nickname for the lively neighborhood.

It didn't take long to find a tan, three-bedroom bungalow with an old maple tree in front. They pictured barbecues in the yard and kids blowing out birthday candles at the dining room table. Plus, it was not too far from her mother's house and the expressway for Matt's commute.

He was at work when he got word of the accident.

Cari was enjoying a sunny stroll with the kids and their pug dog, Lucy, as she crossed 47th Street near Eighth Avenue in La Grange. She had just lifted Ellie's stroller onto the curb when an SUV swerved into them while traveling more than 30 mph, officials said. Cari absorbed the bulk of the impact; Carson was thrown into the street and fractured his leg. Ellie wasn't injured, but nobody knows exactly what she saw.

Cari died at LaGrange Memorial Hospital that afternoon.

The night of the accident, Matt Cook and the children moved into Cari's mother's house.

Carson was in the hospital and had to be introduced to formula instead of breast milk. The family had to plan a wake and a funeral. Ellie kept asking when Mommy was coming home.

Over the next few months, family and friends put flowers at the accident site and persuaded village leaders to lower the speed limit from 35 to 30 miles per hour. They lobbied for improvements to the nearby crosswalk and started a Web site to benefit the children: cookfamilyfund.com. In just a few weeks, they distributed 800 purple bracelets with the words "Slow down. Enjoy life" next to Cari's name.

And in midst of all the activity, Matt Cook created a blog. In hundreds of posts, he alternated between writing letters to his wife and keeping a diary. Some entries were elaborate, with photos and videos. Other entries were short, ignoring grammar rules: "i needed you tonight. i miss u."

Cook found unexpected support from a small community of young widows and widowers with children who were also blogging about their losses. He sent e-mails to a few, pointing out tragic similarities and inviting them to stay in touch.

The return e-mails all came from women.

"It's harder because men don't reach out," said Matt Logelin, who blogs about raising a daughter after his wife's sudden death just hours after giving birth. Logelin's blog led to a book deal and the creation of a foundation that awards grants to widows and widowers raising children.

Of the nearly 100 applications for grants received thus far, only six have been from men, Logelin said.

Three months after the accident, Matt Cook decided it was time to return home. His mother-in-law, Carolyn Stevens, urged him to stay. She thought it would be more comforting to live close to her, Cari's brother and three sisters, who also were devastated and eager to provide stability for the kids.

But Cook's mind was set.

"I could see that he maybe wanted to grieve without all of us knowing that he was doing it," Stevens said, adding that she has learned that everyone who loved her daughter must find their own way to continue.

"Continuing is OK because never does it leave your head. I wake up thinking of her, throughout the day I'm thinking of her," she said. "The bottom line is, we have survived."

With Cook back home and back to work, his days became exhausting marathons. He woke the kids and got them dressed just in time for Cari's mom to pick them up. He commuted an hour and a half through traffic to his Lake Forest office and another two hours in the afternoon to pick up the kids in Mount Greenwood. Then it was time for dinner, baths and maybe a story before they all fell exhausted into bed.

It hurt Cook that Cari wasn't there when Carson took his first steps. He had to get the video camera, set it on a table and hit record, then squat back on the floor and coax the toddler toward him.

Or that on a happy day at a baseball game, when he casually told a stranger Ellie was "in heaven" as she ate one of her favorite snacks, a giant dill pickle, Ellie asked, "Like Mommy?"

Most of all, he worried about all the instinctive mothering his children would miss. Was he pulling Ellie's ponytail back the right way? Would he remember to list Carson's milestones in the memory book? Would they know how much their mother had loved them?

Much of this was recorded in his blog, where he expressed his pain and frustration in ways he could not in person, even to family and close friends.

"There are things he tells us, and then there's things that I read on there," said Yolanda Hancock, a close friend. "I hate to read it because it's so heartbreaking, but I can't not read it because I'm concerned for him."

Seven months after Cari's death, the couple's friends threw their annual Christmas cookie party. The hostess, Jen Felten, cried when she saw Cook arrive with Ellie, Carson and a bag full of individually wrapped gifts for each of their friends' children.

"I know how hard that was for him to even find the time to go do that," Felten said, tearing up again. "He was trying to find ways to show his kids, not just talk about her, but live what she had done."

The 47-year-old Chicago woman accused of causing the accident, Mary McPhillips, received two traffic tickets. Cook has filed a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against her, the driver of another car involved and the village of La Grange.

McPhillips declined to be interviewed but asked her brother, Jay Riordan, to speak on her behalf.

Choking through tears, Riordan said McPhillips, a mother of five, has struggled to get out of bed many days and has taken medication to help deal with depression. Someday, she hopes to have the opportunity to apologize in person, he said.

Cook tries not to think about the blame. Questions about "why?" linger, but he doesn't allow himself to get angry, he said.

Instead, he focuses on his role as sole parent. In September, he quit his job as an IT specialist with the Chicago Bears to become an independent computer consultant, allowing more time at home. He plans to repaint the house's exterior and fix a leaky roof before winter.

On a recent Sunday, it was supposed to thunderstorm all day. But for a brief period in the morning, the sky was blue and cloudless.

Cook quickly raked leaves into a pile under the maple tree. Then he grabbed his camera.

With Cari, taking photos of the children playing in the leaves was a fall tradition.

It still is.

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Source: Chicago Tribune - http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-grieving-husband-x-20101108,0,4666892.story
 
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Cari Lyn Cook (Stevens)
(1978-2009)

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