Christian Jondale "CJ" Cook, 18, of Readyville, Tennessee passed away on Saturday, November 18, 2023. He was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on Monday, July 25, 2005. Preceding him in death were his great grandmother, Macie Bogle Walkup, and great uncle, Richard Dale Bogle.
He is survived by his mother, Candi Renee Cook of Readyville; father, Shane (Missy) Ross of Kentucky; brothers, Victor Cook and Andrew Cook of Readyville; grandmother, Rita Cook of Woodbury; great grandfather, Ray N. Walkup of Readyville; great uncle, Johnny Ray (Kathy) Walkup; uncle, Mike (Kim) Watson; cousins, Matthew (Margene) Watson, Shelby Walkup, Timmy Young, Johnny Ray Walkup, Jr., Dixie Young, and Tucker Means; special friends, Cole Martin, Hunter Matthews, and Hayden Sanders; and numerous bonus aunts, uncles, and friends.
How do you describe a teenager that did more in his 18 years on this earth to help others than some people do in a lifetime? Well, the word that continued coming up to describe CJ was "genuine," so we want to take the opportunity to spell it out through CJ's life story.
G - Great friend. First and foremost in his life, CJ was known by countless people as a great friend. When he loved, he loved hard, and there was no doubt in your mind that you were his friend. Over the course of the last few days, his impact on those blessed to cross paths with him has been made known through an outpouring of messages and calls. There was no question of how CJ was raised, and probably the greatest benefactor of his friendship was his brother, Andrew. While CJ didn't always appreciate his little brother, he would have died for him without thinking twice. They had a bond that allowed them to just sit in the car in silence with one another. It wasn't about having the best conversation in the world. It was about being in the presence of one another and reaching the level of comfort where words were not needed, but when words or action were needed, CJ was the one you could depend on, which brings us to the next letter.
E - Everywhere he was needed. CJ had the kindest soul and frequently was the first one to come and help. All it took was a text or a phone call, and CJ was on the way. His thoughtfulness and care for others took him on several late night or early morning drives to help friends broken down on the side of the road. Deep within him was the desire to be a constant helper, and that led him to taking on being a caregiver. When his mom was struggling to make ends meet, CJ stepped up at the age of a child into the role of a man. His number one priority was making sure that his mother and brother were taken care of. Years later, Mammie Macie got sick, and CJ was the first to offer a hand. He wasn't going to sit back and watch his mom or Nonna Rita do it alone. He held himself accountable and responsible for as much of her care as he could take on. Then, when Nonna Rita had a stroke last November, CJ went over every day to check on her and make sure she had everything she needed, even if it was just some company. That care and hospitality is something he got honestly from his southern roots and is the inspiration for the next letter.
N - Normal country boy. Growing up in the Horny Hole community, CJ quickly learned his affinity toward the water, especially when it involved a river or creek. But really, any water would do because something about it brought him happiness. Later in his life, that same water became all the more meaningful when he was baptized at the Readyville Mill. The picture of that day still adorns the windowsill in his bedroom as a reminder of his commitment. Now, an affinity to water and Jesus aren't all the southern traits CJ had. As any good country boy would, CJ grew up play fighting with Andrew, shooting, riding four wheelers, and mowing lawns. He and Andrew made many memories together worrying their mom and making her eyes roll. However, they also warmed her heart when CJ taught Andrew how to shoot, entertained her with skeet shooting and four wheeler stories, and impressed her with their work ethic. CJ started at 10 years old mowing lawns and making money. He believed hard work pays off and held the firm belief in earning what you have. Yet even being a normal country boy, something about CJ broke the mold and gave us the next letter.
U - Unforgettable. If you knew CJ, you can add forgetting him to the list of impossible things in your life. No one could match him when it came to his friendship, his giving heart, and his unique personality. He created a class all of his own and topped it off with his humor. It's been rumored CJ may have gone to school to major in the sarcastic and snide, but really, he just enjoyed joking around. While he may not have always had a smile on his face, CJ was going to do his level best to make sure everyone else did. He had a page on just about every social media site, and his connections were endless. He created an entire village to surround his family with love and support, and that creative mind brings us to the next letter.
I - Ingenuity. It has been said before that for an 18 year old, CJ was one heck of a mechanic. He was projected to do great things in his career, and much of what he learned was self-taught. As a child, CJ tore everything he could get his hands on apart, especially if it was in the driveway. Then, he taught himself how to put it back together. If there happened to be anything he didn't know how to do, he was a firm believer in YouTube and self-guided research to figure it out. After graduating from Cannon County High School just this past May, CJ decided to continue on the route of experience being the better teacher. He was finetuning his skills at Kelly Automotive and told his mom and Nonna that Robert Kelly was basically giving him a free college degree at his job. Robert didn’t seem to mind taking CJ under his wing and treated CJ like the son he never had. Now, having a mechanically inclined mind didn't mean CJ had a knack for keeping things organized though. He could tackle just about any project on a machine, but you could almost guarantee he was going to lose some tools in the process, a trait he must have inherited from his Uncle Mike. Really, to sum up CJ's ingenuity, you could just call him a "hood rat." He was content with just about any working conditions as long as it involved getting grease on his hands and clothes and working under the hood for a while. This really sparked when CJ came to an understanding of the next letter.
N - Need for speed. CJ started driving with an adult passenger at the age of 8 when Nonna decided he needed to start learning how to drive. However, as soon as CJ got his feet underneath him as a child, his mom knew she was in trouble. CJ has been trying to go faster all his life. At each milestone in life, he graduated to the next speed level. From burnouts and racing to cars and diesel trucks, CJ didn't care what it was as long as it was fast. His catch phrase was, "Drive it like you stole it," and he said it with a twinkle in his eye. Fear was not in CJ's vocabulary, and with the knowledge behind him, he kept working toward attaining the fastest car he could find. Work ethic was never in lack of supply with CJ, but he had an uncanny ability that brings us to our last letter.
E - Effortless. Somehow with everything he did, CJ made it seem effortless. True friendship came naturally to him. Being there for people was as simple as breathing. Shooting skeet, mowing lawns, or relaxing on the river were all the same tempo in his life. Coming up with just the right quick-witted thing to say to bring a smile to your face was as simple as opening his mouth. Engines were easy, and he thought of them as "just nuts and bolts." When one job wasn’t enough, he decided to open “CJ’s Mechanics.” Driving fast with no fear just meant taking hold of the wheel. Even CJ's hair fell into place to create the classic CJ look. No blow drying, no comb, no fixing it. But what his family thinks about the most is how easily he stepped into the role as the rock of the family, the "man" of the house, and how quickly he was taken out of it.
Though CJ's favorite Paul Walker quote, "If the speed kills me, I'll die with a smile on my face," ended up being true for his life, he has left this earth far too soon. Now, his family is left with the broken pieces of their hearts and their lives to pick up as they mourn the passing of their son, brother, grandson, nephew, and friend.
Visitation will be held at Gentry-Smith Funeral Home on Friday, November 24, 2023 from 4-8 pm. Funeral services will be Saturday, November 25, 2023 at 1 pm in the Gentry-Smith Funeral Home chapel. Mike Watson and Brian Harrell will officiate. Interment will be in Coleman Cemetery.
Those attending the services that wish to pay a special tribute to CJ are encouraged to wear a black hoodie and blue jeans. Bonus points will be given if there is grease on them.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to assist with getting a headstone for CJ. Any money not used will be put toward a trust fund for his brother, Andrew.
Share memories and condolences at www.gentrysmithfuneralhome.com Gentry-Smith Funeral Home, 303 Murfreesboro Rd. Woodbury, TN 37190, 615-563-5337 Because every life has a story