Eva Ellen Cook was born May 11, 1917, to Lillian (Isherwood) and Paul Earl Cook, on a farm homesteaded by her grandparents in Synnes Township in Stevens County, Minn. She was the third of nine children, seven of which survived beyond childhood. She attended a one-room school house (grades 1-8) until she was in second grade, when the family moved to Scott Township, south of Alberta. Although Eva went on to teach in many classrooms and to earn a Masters in Education from Syracuse University, she told a Morris Sun Tribune reporter that she initially found her new school, the Alberta Consolidated School, "too big, too much."
After graduating from Alberta in 1934, she became the first of her family to attend college, enrolling in St. Cloud Teacher's College (now St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN) that fall. She was very appreciative of the value her parents put on advanced education, especially during a time when the attitude was rare, especially for young women. After earning a two-year teaching degree, she returned to western Minnesota to teach grades 1-8 in a one-room schoolhouse outside of Morris. She also taught in Delhi, Alberta and Buffalo, before returning to St. Cloud State University in 1954 to take classes in the emerging field of special education, inspired by the reading difficulties of one of her students.
It became clear that she truly had a gift for special education and Eva was soon asked to teach a group of children with cerebral palsy, who at the time were not allowed to attend school with other children. The children's parents had raised money to hire a teacher for their children and Eva's department chair at St. Cloud, where the school was housed, recommended her for the position. Her contributions to the field live on in the Eva Cook Jones Educator of the Year award, established by United Cerebral Palsy of Central Minnesota in 2009 to honor Eva's efforts in establishing the first special education class for children with cerebral palsy in Minnesota. The award is now given annually to a teacher who exemplifies the qualities Eva demonstrated in the education of children with special needs.
When a Special Education department was started at St. Cloud State, Eva was hired to teach aspiring teachers how to work with students who had disabilities. She also served on a committee that worked with the University of Minnesota hospital to develop a state plan for special education, and became a private consultant helping schools develop policies, programs and procedures for integrating students with mental health and special education issues into mainstream schools.
After retiring, she married Jack Jones on Jan. 24, 1981, and was immensely grateful for the nearly 25 wonderful years they spent together before Jack's death in December, 2005. But she was also appreciative of the productive, fulfilling years she enjoyed when she was single. "People may wonder why I didn't marry at an earlier age," said Eva to the Morris Sun Tribune. "Well, I had a lot of things to do and if I had married earlier I thought, 'I won't be able to do them.'"
Jack and Eva lived in St. Cloud, until Jack's death, when Eva moved to a townhome in Morris. She later moved to Skyview Plaza and then West Wind Village, both in Morris.
Eva died on Sept. 12, 2012.
Eva was preceded in death by her husband Jack, parents Earl and Lillian (Isherwood) Cook, three brothers: Paul, Bob and Ray; and four sisters: Ruth, Helen, Hazel Fynboh, and Lucile Cin. She is survived by her sister Dorothy (Carrol) Amundson of Prior Lake, sister-in-law Laurine Cook of Morris, four stepchildren and their families, and many nieces and nephews. Services are pending. Memorials to United Cerebral Palsy of Central Minnesota, Courage Center or the donor's choice.