Sunday, April 6, 2003

Prize Possessions

Penguins waddled into hearts and home

By Marsie Hall Newbold
Enquirer contributor

Who: Connie and Dick Cook, who have made penguins part of their love story.

Connie and Dick Cook have ta least 1,000 penguin-related items at their Bethel home.
(Mike Simons photo)
| ZOOM |
On display: What she estimates to be "at least a thousand" penguin-related items, including stuffed toys, figurines, socks, slippers, jewelry, shirts, skirts, a cookie jar that squawks when it's opened and a painted emu egg.

Where: Perched throughout their Bethel home.

Mates for life: The couple's first penguins topped their wedding cake 11 years ago. They were finger puppets that she dressed to look like a bride and groom.

"We're short and kind of heavy-set," she says, giggling. "And he says we kind of look like penguins."

"She walks like a penguin, too," he jokes.

Sentimental reasons: One of Connie's favorite penguins was a gift from their family attorney.

"When Dick's father passed away about seven years ago," she says, "we had to go to the lawyer's house, and she had a penguin that had been carved out of a log with a chain saw on her front porch."

When Connie complimented her on it, she offered it to her as a gift.

"She didn't have to ask me twice!" Connie says. "Now, he sits out front of our house and I dress him up for Christmas and Easter. It's especially meaningful, because Dick's dad and I were very close."

Extremely clean: One of their upstairs bathrooms is known as "The Penguin Bathroom." It features a penguin-themed shower curtain, soap containers, soap, lotion bottles, towels, pictures, glasses and a toothbrush holder.

For the past five years Dick, 54, who works in technical support for Cincinnati Machine, has adopted a penguin from the Cincinnati Zoo for his wife's birthdays.

Chilly fantasy: Connie, 51, who is a payroll clerk at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, dreams of someday holding or petting a live penguin.

"We went to the Newport Aquarium when the babies were born," she says, "And they let a little girl hold one of them. I was so jealous you would have thought I was 3 years old!"

Permanent display: The Cooks intend to collect penguins indefinitely because, she claims, they have no other choice.

"We joke around and say, 'When I die who's going to take them?' " she says laughing.

"He says, 'If I marry again, she'd better by God like penguins; because they're gonna stay!' "

Share your prize possessions with Marsie Hall Newbold by mail: c/o The Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202: e-mail:

Please include a daytime telephone number.

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