South Charlotte

Her strong suit: Service to others

Diana Cook, athlete and volunteer, considers herself a “military brat.”

While I take issue with the word “brat” (she is anything but), Cook does have strong military ties. Her father made the Army his career, and she lived most of her first 12 years in Germany. She went to school there, lived on the base, and became immersed in the local language and culture. Her father was a Vietnam War vet, and both grandfathers fought in World War II. Cook's paternal grandfather was a prisoner of war in Japan; it was an experience Cook said he never wanted to discuss.

Cook's family, which included her mother, father and younger “mirror twin” brothers, eventually moved back to the states and settled in Georgia. Cook attended high school and became a track star. She earned a scholarship in cross country and track to Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. and has been athletic ever since. Upon graduation, she went to work for Equifax in Atlanta.

During the 1996 Olympics, Cook was able to volunteer helping map an area for horses and guiding families from Germany.

Afterward, Cook accepted a job at what is now Bank of America and relocated to Charlotte. She often works in bank offices in southern Mecklenburg.

She also continued to run, and increased her volunteer work.

She had a friend who died at age 40 of a stroke that was misdiagnosed. So Cook immersed herself in helping groups fighting heart disease and strokes. She has lobbied for bills in Washington and in Raleigh. She leads groups that teach symptoms of heart attacks and strokes to women, whose symptoms are different from men's.

She says she volunteers because it “seems like the right thing to do.”

Cook has toughened her physical training by adding mountain biking. She said it isn't an easy sport, noting that she had to get eight stitches in her thigh where handlebars once jabbed her.

She always wears a helmet, sunscreen and proper attire when she rides with her group. The group is training for a trip to Moab, Utah, and Fruita, Colorado, both big mountain bike areas, in September. The members train by taking their bikes to Asheville and riding the mountains.

“The trails there are difficult, plus you have the altitude to consider, so we are diligent in our training,” Cook said.

I'm out of breath just thinking about it. Cook is a woman from strong stock who works hard, plays hard and volunteers for the good of the community. Plus, she's very nice and fun to talk to. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to meet this neighbor.