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Brothers Richard Cook, 87, and McKenzie (Ken) Cook, 85, literally grew up in the shadow of Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) on Marquam Hill. And luckily for Ken, the proximity to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital saved his life when he was seriously injured more than 80 years ago.

“As a young lad of about four years of age, I ran across the street to follow my brother Richard and got struck by a car on Veteran’s Hospital Road,” recalls Ken. “And if it hadn’t been for my father, who put me in the back of his pickup truck, and my Aunt Sarah, who was the head nurse at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, I wouldn’t be here today.”

After at least a month in the hospital, Ken fully recovered from a head injury and broken bones. That experience and a lifetime connection to OHSU inspired the brothers to make planned gifts that will benefit Doernbecher in years to come and contribute to life-saving care for the youngest and most vulnerable of patients.

The Cooks’ connection to Doernbecher may have started with Ken’s accident but has deepened over the course of their life. Known as the “Marquam Hill Boys” by the students, faculty and neighbors who crossed paths with the young brothers on their way to school or work, the Cooks spent an idyllic childhood with their older sister, Marilyn, and younger brother, Donn, exploring the wooded hill around OHSU.

Listen to a conversation with the Cook brothers.

Their parents, Harold and Ruth Cook, owned and ran a three-story, 12-room boarding house on Marquam Hill for OHSU students, as well as built and developed other properties on the hillside. At one time they owned more than 100 rental houses and apartments. Richard said, “Marquam Hill is very special to us. It was like a sanctuary. Growing up, we would leave in the morning and the rule was always that we had to be back by sunset.” Even today, Richard and Ken meet in Portland three to four times a year and take daily walks on campus and along the forest trails.

As young boys, the Cook brothers delivered newspapers to the patients at the hospital; Richard was on the morning Oregon Journal route, while Ken delivered the afternoon Oregonian.

“As a paper boy, I would walk by Doernbecher Children’s Hospital every day. There were kids in the windows and I would talk to them. It was a daily occasion for us to be in the hospital,” recalled Ken.

After high school, both brothers went on to college, married and raised families, and had successful business careers – Richard in wealth management and finance, Ken as an entrepreneur.

Now retired and splitting their time between homes in Oregon and Southern California, Richard and Ken wanted to give back to Doernbecher in the form of a planned gift. Older brother Richard said he is forever grateful to Doernbecher for saving his younger brother’s life.

“The way I look at life is not what I’ve taken or gotten from life, but what I can give back. I’ve been blessed, and now it’s my time to give back. Doernbecher Children’s Hospital is at the top of the list.

Ken Cook

Both Richard and Ken have completed plans that commit a portion of their estate to Doernbecher in memory of their aunt, Sarah Cook, who worked as the head nurse at the hospital during the 1940s, and their parents, Harold and Ruth Cook, as well as the care team that treated Ken for more than a month.

Dr. Dana Braner, Chair for Pediatrics at OHSU Doernbecher shares, “Planned gifts can truly make a difference in the lives of our patients and their families; hearing their story and meeting the brothers shows how one experience in a hospital can change the trajectory for a person. Ken and Richard’s gift ties in the legacy of their story into the fabric of Doernbecher.”

Added Rochelle Makela-Goodman, Assistant Vice President of Gift Planning at OHSU Foundation, “Gifts made through one’s estate cost a donor nothing during their lifetime and have a lasting impact on health for our community. Many donors are surprised to learn that saving lives can be as simple as naming OHSU as a beneficiary of a retirement plan or insurance policy, and it does not require engaging an attorney.”

“The way I look at life is not what I’ve taken or gotten from life, but what I can give back,” said Ken. “I’ve been blessed, and now it’s my time to give back. Doernbecher Hospital is at the top of the list.”

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