Anda Cook was born in Riga, capitol of Latvia, but when she was 9 years old, left with family to escape the advancing Soviet army. The family expected to return back home after the war, but it was not to be. Seven years were spent in Germany, first escaping heavy bombing, and after the war, a multitude of Displaced Persons` camps.
After intensive screening and tests, Anda and family were allowed to come to the United States, arriving in 1952. The family`s sponsor was in South Dakota, so the first residence in the US was in Sioux Falls of that state. Anda had to work to assist with the family`s finances (besides Anda, there were two younger siblings, and her mother and grandmother). First job was as a nurse`s aide in a hospital, then as language difficulties became lesser, she worked as a waitress. Sioux Falls had a small Latvian community, and Anda participated with many activities, including acting in the Latvian theater and playing the piano at events.
As family circumstances changed, in 1955 Anda and family came to Cleveland. She did not know a soul, but found the Latvian community and joined some youth organizations, also volunteering as a Girl Scout Leader. Her first job in Cleveland was with the American Steel and Wire as a price analyst. And then she met the love of her life, Bill Cook (they have been married for 61 years). She became an American citizen three days before their oldest child was born in 1963. Education has always been an important aspiration, and even with the sporadic attendance at a variety of schools, (including Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota), at age 50 she earned a Master’s Degree from Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Science.
While staying home for 14 years raising their family, daughters Lisa and Inta and son John, she started volunteering. First with the PTA, while president with that organization she initiated amblyopia testing at Louisa M. Alcott school, and engaged the local police for training students in bicycle safety at the school`s playground. She has been a League of Women Voters` member since 1970 and as president of that organization she successfully worked with the Ohio state legislators to establish a separate Housing Court in Cleveland as well assisting the League to bring the Presidential debates to Cleveland.
Returning to work, she joined a newly established fair housing organization, The Cuyahoga Plan, Inc., where she stayed for 16 years. During that time she was recognized with the Joe Battle award by the Cleveland Area Board of Realtors and the Eleanor R. Gerson Leadership in Social Justice by the Greater Cleveland Community Shares. .
In 1990 she was invited to become executive director of Living in Cleveland Center, Inc. An organization that promotes residential choices in the City of Cleveland when the trend was to move to the suburbs. In that position she designed many programs like the Buying into Cleveland Home Show, Continuing Education classes for real estate professionals, and progressive dinners in Cleveland neighborhoods.. When she retired, then Mayor Michael R. White presented her with the Key to the City.
Among the many volunteer activities, Anda has served as Foreperson of the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury, has served on the boards of the Citizens League, Young Audiences, Cuyahoga County Welfare Board, and has received resolutions and proclamations from Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul, and others. She was also recognized with the Artist of the Year Award for her photography by Tyrian, Inc. In 1990 she was a member of the then Governor of Ohio, Richard F. Celeste, Trade Commission to Moscow. Anda is listed as Who`s Who of American Women.
She was a member of the group that worked to establish the Latvian Cultural Garden, and served as vice president on the Board of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation. In 2010 Anda initiated a change for the format of the iconic One World Day, from an event hosted by just one of the gardens to all of the gardens in the Federation participating, chairing the event for the next three years.
Anda has been active in the Cleveland Latvian community, has co-authored a book, Mūzikas Mozaika, and served 10 years as Chair of the Cleveland Latvian Concert Association. As a board member of the Latvian Cultural Association, TILTS, In November, 2018 she received a Certificate of Appreciation from the American Latvian Association. After Latvia regained independence from the Soviet occupation, she conducted workshops at the University of Latvia and was invited to be a presenter at the International Latvian Science Congress, July, 1991 in Riga. Anda writes for the internationally distributed Latvian newspaper LAIKS.
Anda is humbly thankful for the honor bestowed on her this evening, and congratulates the other recipients. She also thanks the Greater Cleveland Community for allowing her to participate in so many areas of community service. And most of all, Anda thanks husband Bill for his continuous support.
Anda Cook inducted on June 7, 2022
Watch the video of Anda Cook being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Dagmar Celeste.