They still wear “Live for John” wristbands at Lamar High School. The orange T-shirts that read: “Remember John Cookson 1997-2015” haven’t yet faded despite being well worn.
Five months after his death, Cookson’s name lives on.
His friends on the Lamar tennis team and in the Lamar orchestra want to make sure Cookson’s name remains alive long after they’ve graduated and moved on.
“There was always something great about being around John,” said Ronnie Smith, whose son, Charlie, was friends with Cookson on the tennis team. “I know this has been tough for everyone, certainly his immediate family. We want to see John’s memory alive at Lamar and want everybody to know what a great kid he was.”
Cookson died in a kayaking accident on Arlington’s Village Creek during the flooding last May. He was a 17-year-old junior.
The Lamar tennis and orchestra booster clubs began a scholarship fund in his memory. They recently held a one-day “Live for John” tennis tournament as a fundraiser, raising more than $1,500.
Sherri Lucas, the Lamar Tennis Booster Club president, said plans already are in the works for a second annual event.
“It was a real success,” Lucas said. “We learned so much this year that next year’s should be even better. We are going to add mixed doubles and a coaches’ division, among other things.”
After getting a late start on the tournament, Smith, one of the event organizers, credits assists from the Arlington Tennis Center and facility manager Sheryl Osborn, Arlington-based DFW Designer Tees and owner Kennith Smith as well as the Arlington school district and District 4-6A tennis coaches.
Martin High School had 12 players participate, and Warrior coaches Derek Moore and Henry Clark won men’s open doubles. Earlier in the year, for the Martin-Lamar tennis match, Moore requested the Cookson donation bucket be brought to Martin so Warrior parents could donate to the fund.
“Only one of our kids who played in the tournament knew John,” Moore said. “Basically, the kids just signed up and played because they knew somebody needed help. There was a need.”
The scholarship fund now has $3,000 in it, according to Lucas, with a goal of $5,000 for the end of the school year.
“We’re hoping for some larger donations from companies and organizations, but I know this takes time,” Lucas said.
The scholarship fund plans to honor tennis and orchestra students annually, with the amount of each scholarship yet to be determined.
Cookson was an honor student at Lamar. He played the cello with the school’s orchestra and was a member of the varsity tennis team. He also worked as a parking attendant for the Texas Rangers.
“One of the challenges for us is to not let John be forgotten,” Lamar tennis coach Courtney Monroe said. “It will be easy for the next couple of years, but as we go forward, hopefully we do a good enough job with this that his legacy continues on so that even though players years from now know who John was and what the family is about. We don’t forget things like this. They might not have had a personal experience with him, but for the seventh and eighth grades, this is going to go on for a number of years where they grow up into Lamar tennis knowing that this is something that happens. It’s important for us to make it a priority.”