Tom Cooke – Newburyport’s Muppet Master
It’s funny how people leave a strong impression on you as a young child even when you don’t know their names. If you were a child during or after 1972, the late illustrator Tom Cooke of Newburyport is almost certainly one of those people — having provided illustrations for well over 100 “Sesame Street” children’s books from ‘72 to 1994.
During those 22 years, Cooke received manuscripts for the books all the way from New York and completed the illustrations at his Massachusetts home. In an interview with the Boston Globe, he recalled being surprised by the popularity of his drawings due to the remote nature of his job. “I love children, and to talk to them. It’s rewarding for me to find out how much they like my work,” he said. “It’s a real high. You know, when you work at home, you don’t realize how many fans you have.”
Cooke moved to Newburyport in 1994, two weeks before retiring from illustration after a stroke left him unable to use his left hand. That didn’t deter him from continuing to pursue art; he merely changed styles, switching to acrylic paints until his passing in 2014 at the age of 78.