A Fort Worth doctor diagnosed A.C. “Ace” Cook with Stage IV pancreatic cancer two years and nine months ago.

Cook was given six months to live — max.

A.C. "ACE" COOK -- photo by Jeff Prince
A.C. "ACE" COOK -- photo by Jeff Prince

Instead, the outspoken owner of the Bull Ring ice cream shop in the Stockyards did what he does best — he bellowed to anyone within earshot that he would beat this damned cancer and prove that damned doctor wrong.


Sure enough, Cook went to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, took chemotherapy and experimental treatments, and did an impressive job at slapping around the Big C.

But I’m just now returning from visiting the larger than life Texas character at Harris Hospital and it’s not looking good. Cook was forced to take a break from his chemo treatments six weeks ago, and he was supposed to get started back on them this week. But his health deteriorated so much in August he wasn’t able to continue treatments.

Now, it doesn’t look like he’ll leave Harris Hospital alive.

I was hoping to talk to him a little bit, but he’s on so much pain medication he can’t converse — believe me, you know Cook is sick if he doesn’t feel like talking.

Good ‘ol Ace — farm boy turned junk collector turned commercial airplane pilot turned pawnshop owner turned early Texas art collector — appears to be nearing his final destination.

Hopefully when he moves on from this life he’ll pass through a brilliant Frank Reaugh sunset.


On the other hand, I hope Cook recovers enough to read this post, which will make him madder than a hornet when he sees he’s been all but pronounced dead. He’ll say something like, “That sumbitch Prince is trying to bury me alive for chrissakes! I’m gonna make that no-account bum eat his words, and walk out of this hospital on my own own two feet, gotdammit.”

I hope he makes me eat my words. C’mon, Ace, make me eat my words.


  1. Jeff,

    Your comments are so heart-wrenching, but also heart-warming.

    It is hard to imagine a world without Ace. He is a great teacher and mentor. He has impacted my life in such a significant way, and I imagine hundreds of others as well. His incredible art collection, created piece-by-piece with a brilliant “eye” and down-to-earth connoisseurship, is a testimony of his talent and love of art and understanding of what makes Texas–and the people who lived and worked here in days gone by–such a unique and powerful place.

    I hope he rallies. He is a very strong and determined character. I look forward to seeing him soon.

    It is hard to think of him being in so much pain. I hope he is resting as much as is possible.


  2. Although I knew this was coming, I am sad today.
    Ace will live forever…in the hearts of those whose lives he touched and the minds of those that he taught through his love of art.
    As long as the Hock Shop Collection exists, A.C. Cook will live forever.

  3. Jeff,

    I am so sorry that you have to write an article about a true friend that is in a fight for his life. It is true that my dad is hard headed, wants to prove others wrong, and is a true fighter. When we found out he was sick, I promised him that I would take every step of this journey with him – I have stayed true to my promise. His time in the hospital proves to be an up and down roller coater ride – but – would he really want it any other way? He is still hanging on – tightly – and I can say I have never been so proud to be his daughter. I told him not to leave me yet, and he promised he wouldn’t…I told him to keep fighting, and he promised me he would…I told him how much he is loved, and he told me that knew it, that it overwhelmed him, and the he loved everyone too. I told him that this was just a set back, and he told me that the British were feeding our troups, as well as the Indians, and that my mom needed to get 600 head of cattle and that there were 150 more coming…as I said, it is an up and down battle.

    Now, a personal note to you Jeff. Knowing my dad like I do, I know that he enjoys an embellished story BUT, some facts need to remain as facts…He was only given 4 weeks to live on March 10, 2008. I know he would want all the credit he could get. I do not want you in too much trouble when he gets out!!

    Now, I must tell you what happened as I left last night. All day he had been somewhat out of it. I did not know what topic I could talk about that would light a fire under him, so I told him that Mark (my husband and a commercial pilot) had taken a poll about a possible strike. My dad looked at me and said “Tell him that we are union and for the company to shove it up their ass”! Way to go daddy! Gotta love that man!

    When we went to Chemo together, we would always get him a bite to eat. One of his favorite places to go was Dutch’s by TCU. Painted on the wall is a great quote by Dutch himself…”Fight ’em till hell freezes over, then fight ’em on the ice”…well, Hell has not frozen over, but nonetheless, the fight is still on…

  4. Ace’s wife, Diane, and his daughter Charlene and her family — along with Ace’s best friend Morris — are surrounding the old man with love in that hospital room. Ace has a great support system while he’s fighting for his life. And you can bet on one thing — he’ll fight. He’s a Christian and he’s said in the past that he doesn’t fear death and he’s certain he’ll go to a better place, but he ain’t leaving without a fight. It’s his nature to stand firm and fight against the odds. He’ll know when it’s the right time to let go, when he’s ready, and on his terms.

  5. Thanks, Jeff, for the good words about our Ace. Have spent lots of hours with him in the past few days and there have been moments where the old spark returned and we had some good laughs together. Unfortunately it seems that there are long stretches now where he doesn’t know that we are there pushing him up on the ice so he can fight some more. I happened to be there this morning when one of the doctors who has treated him from the beginning told Diane that she was proud of the fight that Ace had conducted. The doctor said it had been strong and vigorous and courageous and she was proud of him for doing it. Appreciate all the good stories you have done about Ace in the past. Hope you get to write some more.

  6. Well, Jeff, you may be in trouble and have to eat your words. Ace is feeling much better today and can talk. When I get up there I’ll read him your blog and see what he has to say about you.

  7. Hello, I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Cook’s passing. I sold him a photograph from an estate collection of vintage photos in July of 2008 off of an eBay listing. The collection is being shown by The Byers’ Evans House Museum in Denver, Colorado from March 1st 2012 to May 31st 2012. I emailed Mr. Cook to see about getting his piece here for the show, but got no repsonse. I now understand why. I would greatly appreciate any help you or your readers can provide to aid me in getting in touch with his family to see if they still have the photo. I do have a picture of it on my blog; It’s the only one marked, “SOLD”. Best wishes, and thank you. Denver, CO