Funeral services for James W. Cooper, 95, of Lawrence, will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday, July15, 2019 at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. Burial will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery. He passed away Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at his Lawrence home, two days shy of his 96th birthday.
Jim was born July 11, 1923 in Kansas City, KS, the son of Claude and Mary (Gray) Cooper. He was the fourth of five boys. The early death of his mother resulted in Jim coming to live with his aunt, Maud Smith, in Lawrence. He attended Oread High School and KU. During high school and college, Jim worked at the local theaters, first as an usher and later as a projectionist. One of his many fond memories of that time was being an usher for the 1940 Dark Command movie premier attended by John Wayne, Walter Pidgeon, Claire Trevor and Roy Rogers.
While attending Oread High School, Jim met his wife of 71 years, Mildred York. They married on July 2, 1944 in Lawrence and immediately began the travels of a 2nd Lt. Army Air Corp pilot with stops in Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Upon finishing the Army’s two- and four-engine pilot’s school, he was selected to fly and train student navigators on air training missions, accumulating over 1300 hours of flight time in this role. Completing B-24 transition school, he was awaiting orders for Europe when World War II ended.
After being discharged, Jim and Millie returned to Lawrence to build a home and raise their family. Initially returning to work as a theater projectionist, he later found employment with KP&L. A proud and loyal KP&L employee, Jim worked 37 years in the Operations Division at the Lawrence electrical plant before retiring in 1989. Until recently, he enjoyed attending the monthly retiree luncheons to reminisce with old friends about work, family and life events.
In the summer, Jim liked to garden; growing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers in gardens around his home. Zucchini, tomatoes, zinnias and other items were grown in abundance and he enjoyed generously sharing with family, coworkers and neighbors. Another favorite pastime was watching the many birds that came to feed at his numerous birdfeeders and devising ways to defeat those vexing squirrels that raided the feeders. His elaborate squirrel-proofing efforts led to a family tradition of presenting him with at least one squirrel gag-gift each birthday and Christmas.
Jim was a caring person whose acts of kindness extended beyond family to coworkers and neighbors. After retirement, he devoted many hours over the years caring for his elderly, blind neighbor; cooking, cleaning, running errands and being a friend. He also assisted in the care of his paraplegic neighbor until personal health issues forced him to stop.
Without a doubt, Jim’s greatest joy came from his family and extended family activities. Whether attending school activities, taking cross-country camping vacations or participating in family holiday gatherings, Jim took quiet joy in sharing the experience with his family. The welcoming smile on his face and warm greeting were always there to share with others and will be greatly missed.
Survivors include two sons, Gary Cooper (Betty Jo), Albuquerque, NM; Brian Cooper, Shawnee; one daughter, Rosie Shelton (Charlie), Lawrence; two grandchildren; Laura Flaxbeard (Zach), Osawatomie, KS, Joel Angelone, San Francisco, CA; one brother-in-law, Frank M. York, Olathe, KS; and two sisters-in-law, Frances Y. Abbott, Haddon Heights, NJ, Alita Y. Cooper, Lawrence and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Millie, and four brothers; Claude, Elmer, Merle, and Raymond.
The family will greet friends Sunday, July 14, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the mortuary. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in his name to Cottonwood, Inc. or Honor Flight, Inc. and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.