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Merna Sarah Cook celebrates 103rd birthday


January 17, 2019

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Merna Sarah Cook celebrated her 102nd birthday on January 11, 2019. Merna grew up in Vernon County with her parents Frank and Sarah Burt and 3 brothers and 3 sisters. Merna's family was part of a long line of cheesemakers dating back to 1883. Both of her parents as well as her brothers and uncles were licensed cheesemakers. One of her aunts was the first woman to get a cheesemaker's license in Wisconsin. Merna married Sam Cook in 1936. Despite the Great Depression, they kept their dream of cheesemaking in sight. Sam spent two years learning the trade from Merna's brothers before moving to Sauk County in 1944. He purchased and operated the Irish Valley Cheese factory from 1944-1978. Merna has four children, Monte Cook, Roberta Becker, Bonnie Buell, and Sidney Cook. The cheesemaking legacy has been carried on by her sons. Monte has since retired but Sidney continues to operate Carr Valley Cheese and has been recognized as the most awarded cheesemaker in North America. The family loves cheese and is very proud of their heritage. Their most common family quote is: "If you eat cheese every day you may live longer than you want to." Merna's mother lived to be 108 years old. Pictured left to right: Monte Cook, Roberta Becker, Merna Cook, Bonnie Buell, and Sidney Cook.

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