Grafton “Grif” Cook, a long-time amateur historian, attended Washington and Lee University before graduating with his Associate’s Degree from Southwest Michigan College. Thirty-seven years after founding his successful lumber brokerage businesses in Dowagiac, Cook completed his BA in history at Western Michigan University in 1996 and retired.
Throughout his lifetime, Cook was an active student, collector, author, and patron of local history projects, with a particular passion for the history of arms and armor. In 1967, Grif donated his impressive collection of military artifacts from the Philippines to Southwestern Michigan College, assisting in the establishment of the SMC Museum. The Filipino collection was eventually returned to Manila where it now resides in the National Museum of History. Grif sold the military portion of his Major General H. H. Bandholz library to the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. Over the next several decades, Cook served as a member of the SMC museum’s advisory committee, regularly donating historic materials and assisting in the development of multiple exhibits throughout Michiana. Prior to his death, the Cooks donated their extensive 17th, 18th, and 19th century arms collection and library to Fort Ticonderoga.
Grif Cook’s wife, Barbara, shared his passion for history. Together, they co-authored a number of books and articles on a variety of topics, including books on the local communities of Dowagiac, Sumnerville, and Pokagon. The Cooks also wrote a book-length study of the M-1 carbine rifle, widely used during the Second World War and mass-produced in Southwest Michigan. More recently, Grif and Barbara have been involved in supporting the ongoing WMU archeological work at Fort St. Joseph in Niles, Michigan.
Mr. Cook passed away on August 7, 2009, but the legacies he and Barbara have contributed to local communities, institutions, and students of history will continue to have a lasting impact on Southwest Michigan. Barbara accepted the Alumni Achievement Award on his behalf.