The Evansville Courier, March 16, 2007

Joe Cook Plaque is Safe, Sound in Town

By Rich Davis

When John K. Browning saw Thursday's Courier & Press front page, his reaction was "There's Joe!"

A story and pictures detailed how Evansville native Joe Cook, a famous comedian and actor in the 1920s and '30s had become the city's "most famous forgotten man."

There will be a talk and viewing of part of one of Cook's movies during a Vanderburgh County Historical Society meeting Saturday afternoon at McCollough Branch Library.

Then Browning saw a quote indicating a bronze plaque--erected in 1931 at Fourth and Oak streets to mark Cook's boyhood home--was no longer in Evansville, that it had been returned to family members.

Browning knew better. The president of the Southwestern Indiana Mental Health Center recently had lifted the 50-pound marker, which sits in storage in the old Mulberry Center building behind the former Welborn Hospital.

After the mental health center bought a portion of the old Welborn Hospital complex from St. Mary's Medical Center a few years ago, some Welborn memorabilia wound up in the hands of the agency including the plaque.

A newly created Welborn Room, used for meetings in the former Mulberry Center, now houses a timeline, pictures and other items to preserve the memory of Welborn Hospital from 1894 to 1999. But the plaque, with a Cook likeness designed by Hoosier sculptor George Honig, was too heavy for the interior wall, Browning said.

He said the mental health center is open to donating the plaque to someone willing to publicly display it.