Ira Leigh Cook was born in Duluth on August 17, 1916. His parents were Barnett J. Cook and Lillian (Cohen) Cook. Barnett J. Cook was born in Russia in 1867 and immigrated to the United States in 1883, arriving in New York in September of that year. He came to Duluth around 1885 and soon opened a clothing store at 206 Lake Avenue South in partnership with Abraham Mark. This was the first of many businesses that Barnett started. The rest of his family apparently moved to Duluth around 1886—his parents, Isaac and Ida, and siblings Moses, Julius, Henrietta, Etta, and Simon. Isaac L. Cook was a prominent early Duluth citizen who owned a furniture store as well as interests in copper mines in Douglas County, Wisconsin. He died in Duluth on February 2, 1901. Barnett’s mother, Ida Deborah Cook, died at the age of 101 on November 14, 1945, in the family home at 503 East Third Street.
By 1903, Barnett had started and sold several retail businesses and was the owner of the very successful Eagle Clothing Company at 321 West Superior Street. In that year, he decided to retire from retail and focus his energies on managing Cook’s European Hotel and the Duluth Dredge & Dock Co. He also became involved, along with his brothers, in real estate. In 1906, he ran unsuccessfully for alderman from the Fourth Ward. In 1912, he was appointed to the Fire Commission. On October 19, 1915, Barnett married Lillian Cohen of Minneapolis. They purchased a home at 1215 Woodland Avenue and lived there for the rest of their years in Duluth.
Ira was born the next year, and his sister Georgia Shirley, the Cook’s only other child, was born on October 9, 1917. The children attended Duluth schools and both graduated from Duluth Central High School, Ira in 1934 and Georgia in 1935. In high school, Ira was active with the yearbook, the school newspaper, and the class play. He also ran cross country and played on the golf and tennis teams. He left Duluth after graduation to attend Stanford University. Ira graduated from Stanford in 1938 with a medical degree. About the same time, his parents moved from Duluth to Los Angeles. Ira took a job in radio in Los Angeles as a record librarian and announcer. He served in World War II, saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, and later broadcast over Armed Forces Radio. In 1949, he began a long career at Los Angeles radio station KMPC. He broadcast The Ira Cook Show in the mornings and was known for playing Hawaiian music. Ira was also a song writer, composing and collaborating on songs such as “Pony Tail,” “Hawaii Hawaii,” “Have a Happy Day,” and “Sunday Barbecue.” Ira also acted in movies, appearing in small roles in The Stars are Singing (1953), The Five Pennies (1959), The Geisha Boy (1958), and The Ladies Man (1961), and in episodes of the television series Dragnet, Marcus Welby, M.D., McCloud, and Ironside. In 1952, Ira authored a book, Cook…With the Stars, which included favorite recipes of stars including Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and Sammy Davis Jr.
Ira was married to Virginia M. Cook for 58 years when she died on October 6, 2005. They had one daughter, Susan. Ira died in California on May 15, 2007, at the age of 90.