Sunday, April 14, 2024

Yontan Gonpo, 84

| March 31, 2024 1:00 AM

Yontan Yeshe Gonpo was born Robert Charles Cook Jr. on February 4, 1940, to Robert Charles Sr. and Lila Arlene Luther Cook. He embarked on his next journey Sunday, March 6, 2024, in Sandpoint, Idaho. Private family services have been held.

He got his first job at the age of 8 for a rodeo outfit as cook at the Cheyenne Days. At age 9, he kept himself and his five younger siblings alive for an entire winter, the youngest in diapers. He also became a tailor at an early age helping his mom and grandmother make period costumes for the Denver Playhouse. He also was a baker at 14 and drove cattle truck at 15. He had five children and also had five foster children. 

He started an air squadron for underprivileged kids and competed around the country winning awards. It would take pages to list his many occupations and accomplishments; to name a few, truck driver, logger, bartender, heavy equipment operator, waiter, engineer, computer programmer, etc. He even studied with a shaman as a child when his family lived on a Lakota Reservation. He could build and manufacture anything. That’s the first half of his life. 

In the second half, he found his Tibetan teacher and became a Buddhist Lama, Yogi, and spent the last half of his life doing practice. He started several nonprofits devoted to helping others. During this time, he changed his name to Yontan Yeshe Gonpo, the name given to him by his teacher. In his later years before retirement, he spent seven years running work services at Panhandle Special Needs in Sandpoint. He often said that this was his favorite job he ever had. He also drove for a local transportation company picking up and delivering special needs clientele all over Bonner County.

He was beloved by many. His family’s favorite job he held was life partner, stepdad, and grandpa. 

We miss you Yogi — but rejoice in your freedom from pain and can once again soar above the clouds.

He is survived by his partner in life, Rosalee James; her daughter, Spring; and granddaughter Jemma; his children and their children, Melody, Becky, Victor, Luther, and Alma (Sparki); his surrogate daughter, Elissa Rookey and her family; and the rest of his “kids,” Josh, Sam, Desi; and numerous grandchildren.

Lakeview Funeral Home in Sandpoint is handling the arrangements. Please visit Yontan’s online memorial at and sign his guest book.