Justin Cook was remembered as a well-liked young man who was good at what he did.
Cook, who worked at numerous restaurants and catering businesses in the Albany and Corvallis area in recent years, was found dead along with his mother, Cathy, in the family’s home on North Fork Road in southern Marion County this past weekend after the Beachie Creek Fire burned through the area last week.
Justin Cook was 41. Cathy Cook's age was not available.
“He was just a really humble, soft-spoken, great guy,” said Cody Utzman, owner of Bohdi Bakery in Corvallis and former employer of Cook. “I think probably one of the favorite persons in the entire kitchen. Liked by literally everybody, wait staff and all the way around. Just a really great team player. He was always there, always showed up and always did his job great."
Cook worked for Utzman at Frankie’s Restaurant in Albany for nearly two years.
Utzman added that Cook was a good friend outside of work, which he says has been demonstrated by the large number of former coworkers who have reached out since the news of the deaths.
Cathy and Justin Cook are survived by Justin Cook’s wife, Yuni Magana, who lives in Mexico; Travis Cook, Justin Cook’s brother; and Justin’s father, whose name was not available.
Justin Cook grew up in Bend, graduating from Bend Senior High School. Utzman said he moved to the mid-valley about seven or eight years ago and studied at Oregon State University.
Travis Cook told a Portland television station last Thursday that the last time he had talked with his mother and brother was about 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 7. At that time, the home was in a Level 2 evacuation status. The two were expecting to get further notice that evening but said they were ready to go if necessary, Travis Cook said.
“I’m afraid that they got stuck either in their vehicle or in the house and got burned, is what I’m thinking happened,” he said at the time.
At Frankie’s working for Utzman, Justin Cook started as a line cook and worked his way up to sous chef. He worked at Castor in Corvallis for a few months before moving to Mexico with his wife in late 2017 or early 2018, Utzman said. Cook also worked previously at del Alma Restaurant in Corvallis and various catering outlets.
Magana was a salad cook at Frankie’s when Cook also worked at the restaurant.
“They met there, fell in love,” Utzman said.
Cook and his wife were in Oregon recently visiting family. Magana returned to Mexico, and Cook was expected to go back just a few weeks later before fires in the western part of the state became more intense last week.
Utzman said he believes COVID-19 restrictions kept Cook, a United States citizen, from rejoining his wife in Mexico.
“A lot of people knew him from the area, and that restaurant industry is very close. So we’re all pulling together to do what we can do,” Utzman said.
That effort has been the creation of an online fundraising campaign to support the Cook and Magana families to help Magana and possibly other family members in Mexico come to Oregon for a memorial service.
Donations can be made at https://givebutter.com/3omcv0. A total of $2,100 had been collected as of late Monday afternoon.
Private wake and service announcements will be made once travel is possible.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.