Mary Lou Cook Biography

Date April 20, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Categories Community


Santa Fe Living Treasure and NM Community Foundation Luminaria, Mary Lou Borders Cook (MLC), mother of three (Caren, Courtney and Sam Jr.), grandmother and great grandmother, turns 90 on April 29, 2008. Though born in Chicago, MLC, as she prefers to be called, spent her childhood in El Paso, TX; went to high school in Kansas City, MO, and graduated from the University of Kansas with a BFA in 1939. In 1940 she married Sam Cook and together, following Sam's career, they raised their family in El Paso, Kansas City, MO, Milwaukee, WI, and Des Moines, IA, before settling in Santa Fe in 1969, upon Sam's retirement. A widow since 1981, MLC's community and peace activism, creativity, teaching and mentoring, spiritual ministry, generosity of spirit and net-working abilities extraordinaire have deeply touched and changed our community.

MLC began her 70 year history of volunteer work with the Junior League, an organization with whom she worked in every city in which she lived before moving here to NM. In El Paso during WWII, she comforted wounded, hospitalized soldiers; in Kansas City where the young family moved after the war, she founded a pre-school for blind children; in Milwaukee where they were then transferred, she developed and became president of the Children's Arts Program affiliated with the Milwaukee Arts Center, later becoming a trustee of that Center and an appointed member of the Governor's Metropolitan Study Commission.

In Des Moines, IA, during the sixties, while raising three teenagers, MLC, became a tireless volunteer for the Peace Corps. During those years she opened her home to students and foreign visitors from around the world, becoming mentor to many, and a bridge between races and cultures. It was also in Des Moines that MLC mastered the art of calligraphy, developed paste craft, her form of original folk art, and began teaching and inspiring others to develop their own creativity. What began locally eventually took her around the country and the world as a teacher and honorary member of four Calligraphy Guilds.

It is in Santa Fe, however, that MLC truly found home for her spirit. One of the original artists at, and eventually President of Shidoni, her calligraphy studio occupied a converted chicken coop on the grounds of the artist's community there. MLC became the official calligrapher of the City of Santa Fe and her sweeping letters still surround our city's seal and grace the entrance to the College of Santa Fe. Flowing easily into the city in numerous directions, with her beloved mentor, Cyrus Baldridge as her guide, she has taught widely, including at St. John's College and the College of Santa Fe. She was a founding director of the first minority bank in Santa Fe; a co-founder of the NM Acupuncture Association, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch of NM, Women's Voices, and the Dispensable Church (with Hugh Prather); a founder of Santa Fe Living Treasures and past president of the NM Women's Forum. Mary Lou Cook was herself awarded the status of "Living Treasure"€ of Santa Fe, and was awarded the coveted "Ten Who Made A Difference"€ for the city.

Active in alternative healing with Dr. Hazel Parcells and Madeline Goulard and a minister in the Eternal Life Church, MLC has counseled, married and blessed countless individuals, served as Chaplain to the State Legislature and for 25 years led a study group in the Course in Miracles in her home. Active in local politics, her letters to the editor have long been a familiar sight on the editorial page of the New Mexican. She was State Chairman of the Dennis Kucinich campaign in 2004 and co-founder that same year of the NM Department of Peace. In 2006 she founded the MLC Creativity Center. Author and co-author of 14 books, frequently interviewed and awarded locally and nationally and oft quoted on the internet, she continues to be of service and to inspire to this day.