BOWLING GREEN, KY - Anna Jo Cook Pickens, 85, formerly of Bowling Green, passed away, Saturday, November 3, 2012 in Owensboro, KY. The Sturgeon Creek, Kentucky native was the daughter of the late S.M. Cook and Pearl Lynch Cook.
She was a loving wife and mother and a friend to all. Along with her twin sister Betty Jo, she achieved fame in the late 1930s and early '40s as a song and dance duo known as the Cook Twins. They, along with piano player Mayme Johnson, were regulars at the prestigious Renfro Valley Barn Dance, and many other venues in southeastern Kentucky during that era.
After graduating from London High School at age 16, the twins received full athletic scholarships as cheerleaders to Western Kentucky State Teachers College. On Christmas night, 1944, the Cook Twins performed between games of a college basketball doubleheader in New York's Madison Square Garden before 18,000 fans, and received six encores - a feat noted by The New York Times.
The Cook Twins had their own radio show in Bowling Green and toured extensively in the region under the watchful eye of legendary Hilltopper basketball coach Ed Diddle, their legal guardian at the time. The duo passed up an opportunity to travel to Hollywood for a motion picture screen test, choosing instead to be married and begin family life.
Anna Jo graduated as an honor student from Western Kentucky State College in 1948 with a degree in English. She later taught junior high school for eight years in Elizabethtown and Danville, before becoming a housewife upon the family's move to Bowling Green in 1959. She was a devout Christian lady who taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School for more than 20 years, while also being extensively involved in volunteer work for many years.
Survivors include: a son; Jim Pickens, Jr., Owensboro, KY, two granddaughters; Katie Pickens, Elizabeth Pickens and their mother Anne Lindsay Pickens all of Owensboro, KY, a great grandson; Lincoln James Pickens, Owensboro, KY, a twin sister; Betty Jo Gibson, Louisville, KY, several nieces and nephews; Dru Habermel, husband Fred, Crestwood, KY, Greg Gibson, wife Susan, Bowling Green, Ted Cook, wife Debbie, London, KY, Gene Cook, wife Martha, Murray, KY, Denny Cook, wife Janice, London, KY, and Connie Cook Johnson, husband Glen, London, KY. She is preceded in death by her husband Jim Pickens, Sr., two brothers; Eugene Cook and Benny Cook, a nephew; David Cook, sisters in law Rosetta Cook and Jackie Cook, and a brother in law Dee Gibson.
Visitation will be held Monday, November 5, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at J. C. Kirby & Son Lovers Lane Chapel and on Tuesday, November 6, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Funeral will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home. Burial is at Fairview Cemetery #2. Donations may take the form of contribution to the American Diabetes Association. Arrangements have been entrusted to J. C. Kirby & Son Lovers Lane Chapel.
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