Willoughby native launches Jerry’s Sports Photography in memory of Jerry Cook – News-Herald

The late Gerald “Jerry” Cook was not only a lifelong friend of Nathaniel Urban and his family, but a mentor who taught Urban everything there is to know about photography.

Cook, a longtime Willoughby resident who owned Legends Sports Photography for over 30 years, lost his battle with cancer in March this year. It was then that Urban decided to launch Jerry’s Sports Photography in his memory.

  • Nik Urban, Nathaniel’s brother, playing baseball for the Willoughby Wildcats in the summer of 2011 at Classic Park in Eastlake. (Nathaniel Urban)

  • A photo that Nathaniel Urban took in Holmes County in the...

    A photo Nathaniel Urban took in Holmes County in the fall of 2012 on a day trip he took with Jerry Cook and mutual friends. Besides sports, Urban has developed a passion for nature photography. (Nathaniel Urban)

Urban specializes in youth sports photography, taking individual photos of players and teams throughout Lake County, as well as Geauga County. He also photographs nature and plans to film local events.

Currently, Urban’s business address is his home address, he said.

“All of the sales are online, so I can do it from my own computer,” Urban said.

Cook graduated from Willoughby South High School in 1976. Before starting Legends Sports Photography, he studied photography at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. When Urban was 12, his mother started working for Cook and continued to work for him for the next 18 years.

“It was his side gig and it was also my first job because mom worked for him,” Urban said. “He let me take a camera and photograph my brother’s baseball team. My brother has been in sports his whole life, so I would just borrow one of Jerry’s cameras and take pictures because I thought it was so much fun.

Nothing made Urban happier than having a camera in his hands, photographing his brother’s baseball team, catching a ball in the air as a pitch was pitched or dust flying in the air. tunes because of someone sliding in the marble.

“I was addicted to taking photos right away,” he said.

As Cook never married or had children, his friends and others would take pictures for him.

“He was the reason my mom got to buy Christmas presents some years because times were tough,” Urban said.

Cook always called Urban his “grasshopper,” Urban said, and was tough on him at an age when he needed it.

“Show up on time,” he recalls. “If you went out the night before, you still come to work and don’t take shitty pictures. Jerry was very good at explaining what a good image is, how to have a good work ethic and how to support your local community.

Apart from falling in love with photography, Cook made Urban fall in love with his home town – Willoughby. Urban lived out of state for a few years, but when he returned to Willoughby, everything came full circle, he said.

“Jerry was diagnosed with terminal cancer and that was right when I moved in last year,” said Urban, who toyed with the idea of ​​starting something small to pay off everything. what Cook taught him and to serve the community.

It was the day after Cook’s death that Urban gained approval from Jerry’s Sports Photography, Ohio’s trade name. Now, in addition to working full-time at the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Urban takes photos that can hang on fridges for years and photos that come back at high school graduation parties.

Relationships and customer service are key elements that Urban has learned from Cook and is implementing in its own business. Delivering a good product in a timely manner is another key takeaway from Cook, Urban said, and love for Willoughby.

“Jerry loved Willoughby so much and so much that his dog was named Willoughby,” Urban said. “Jerry had an office in town and that’s where my and my brother’s high school graduation party was held. Whenever you needed something, Jerry gave it to you. He expected nothing in return and never wanted his generosity to be public.

In terms of photography, Urban learned that he had an eye similar to Cook’s.

“Besides sports, Jerry loved nature and history, so he visited national parks several times,” Urban said. “As for Ohio, he loved covered bridges. He and I and a few other friends went out to photograph the fall colors, so there was a lot of natural beauty in Ohio and across the country that Jerry loved to capture. Nature photography is something I fell in love with.

Much like what Urban does now, Cook has always done sports-related daytime photography. From the years he took pictures with him, Urban noted Cook’s attention to detail.

“Jerry had a 30-year reputation in Willoughby solely because of the photography he did,” Urban said. “I would like to build something similar. One thing Jerry’s friends told us is, “We make memories for people, that magnet on the fridge or that picture that goes to Grandma sitting on the coffee table.” You don’t realize how far these photos go. I had never thought of it that way. For me, these were just images, but it’s so much more.

A short-term goal for Urban is to create a social media presence. In the long run, he doesn’t see himself leaving Lake County.

“It’s a lot of word of mouth right now,” Urban said. “I don’t have a website or Facebook page yet. I have a logo created by a local designer and a business card, and I’ve worked with Perry and Willoughby before. It’s just something I do to honor Jerry and I adjust my schedule accordingly. If this turns into something more, fantastic, but right now being a small business owner is still new to me.

Even though it’s hard to schedule photo shoots due to second shift hours at Great Lakes Brewing, Urban still has a passion for serving northeast Ohio.

“What I love deep down is serving Lake County and northeast Ohio,” he said. “Time spent has made me fall in love with the house.”

For inquiries, individuals may contact Urban via email at [email protected]


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