William H. Cook, a contractor and developer who built theaters, churches, shopping centers and other Sacramento area landmarks, died Sunday of congestive heart failure, his family said. He was 90.
Mr. Cook rose from carpenter to construction superintendent with an unflagging work ethic shaped by the Great Depression. He oversaw projects for Erickson Construction Co. and the Kassis brothers that sprouted throughout the region as Sacramento grew after World War II.
He supervised work on the Fruitridge and Southgate shopping centers and the original Arden Fair Shopping Center. He remodeled the Crest Theatre downtown and led construction of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox church on Alhambra Boulevard, a Bank of America in Elk Grove and the Tahoe Biltmore hotel.
A longtime member of Bethel Temple Church at 21st and W streets, he was proud to help build the congregation's new home when it moved to Howe Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard. He was credited with devising a way to pour concrete for the prominent dome atop the round sanctuary. The church later was renamed Capital Christian Center and moved again, to near Bradshaw Road and Highway 50.
Mr. Cook eventually went into business for himself. By 1966, he began partnering with developer Marvin "Buzz" Oates on projects, including buying and remodeling the historic Elks Building in downtown Sacramento. The pair also built many concrete warehouses, medical buildings and roller skating rinks.
"He was a good partner and an honest partner," Oates said. "We worked together very well."
William Henry Cook learned important values early. Born in 1922 to farmers in Burton, Neb., he grew up in a community where families worked hard and helped each other in times of need. He recalled how his uncle and his grandfather lost all of their land and livestock during the Great Depression.
"He spent money on things that were important to him, but he was always very cautious about money," said his son Jerry. "He always remembered the soup lines and people throwing themselves out of buildings."
At 18, Mr. Cook moved to Sacramento to work with his uncle building houses.
He met Myrna Loos at Bethel Temple Church and married her before shipping out to Europe with the 50th Medical Battalion of the 1st Army during World War II. He fought in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of France.
A longtime east Sacramento resident, he raised three sons with his wife of 70 years. He taught his work ethic to his young boys, who grew up cleaning bricks that he brought home from construction sites.
"Every day before he went to work, he would get out three pieces of paper and write down all the things that you had to do that day," his son said. "You had to do them all and check them off."
Mr. Cook traveled to many countries around the world. He enjoyed camping trips with friends from Bethel Temple and hosted annual New Year's Day parties.
"The house was completely full of people," his son said. "He had a lot of friends and a very full life."