John Cooper, 93, of Point Pleasant, passed on to be with the Lord, peacefully in his sleep, on September 14, 2013, at Pleasant Valley Hospital in Point Pleasant, WV.
Mr. Cooper was born September 29, 1919, on a small hillside farm in Stone Lick Creek, Gilmer County, West Virginia, to the late Erik Jason Cooper and Lillie Rose (Newton) Cooper. After home-schooling by his mother, he attended a two room school in Cox's Mills, and graduated at the age of 16 from Glenville High School.
Mr. Cooper attended Glenville State College for two years, and in 1938, transferred to West Virginia University. There, he was a member of the Alpha Zeta Agricultural Honorary; Phi Epsilon Phi Botanical Honorary; and the WVU Livestock Judging Team, with which he traveled to numerous Universities for livestock judging competitions. He graduated from WVU in 1940 with a degree in agriculture and began work in Taylor County with the Farm Security Administration, the forerunner of the Farmers Home Administration (FHA).
In 1942, Mr. Cooper volunteered for duty in the U.S. Navy as a radio man on the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, where he served in more than 20 combats, in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of the Philippines, and he received 9 major battle stars. Mr. Cooper took great joy, in being on the battleship's radio, and being the first person on the battleship to learn the Japanese had surrendered. Following his honorable discharge in 1945, Mr. Cooper resumed employment with the FHA, in Beckley, WV. In Beckley, he met and later, in June of 1947, married Mary Louise Farley. Shortly after their marriage, Cooper took a job with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (SCS), which assigned him to Spencer, West Virginia, in Roane County.
While in Spencer, Mr. Cooper was active in many religious and civic organizations: Chairman of the Administrative Board of St. John's Methodist Church, initiated and taught a young adult Sunday School class at St. John's; was instrumental in helping locate the West Virginia Methodist Conference Center at Spring Heights, outside of Spencer; president of the Rotary Club; Cub Scout leader; counselor for several Boy Scout merit badges; and chairman of the Red Cross fund drive, for Roane County. Additionally, he wrote weekly articles for the local newspaper, The Times Record called "Lay of the Land," about soil and water conservation practices. Later, in Mason County, he continued to write these same weekly articles, for The Point Pleasant Register.
In Roane County Mr. Cooper began his lifelong campaign to help farmers use better conservation practices to reduce soil erosion on abandoned farmlands. One of his approaches was to help farmers, through his guidance, to plant thousands of tree seedlings of evergreen trees that could be sold for Christmans trees for additional income for farmers in Roane, and Mason Counties.
After being promoted to Mason County, Mr. Cooper resided in Point Pleasant and continued helping farmers in Mason County. He had a particular interest in older farmers and did a series of articles in The Point Pleasant Register, on Mason County farmers who were Octogenarians, in addition to his weekly articles, which totalled around 20 years writing newspaper articles. Mr. Cooper was selected, by the SCS to train newly hired SCS agents, and he tutored 12 new professionals, during his SCS career. Mr. Cooper served as state president of the SCS.
In Point Pleasant, he joined Trinity United Methodist Church where he served as a member of the Board of Trustees for many years. He also joined the Masonic Order in the Minturn Lodge No. 19 A.F. and A.M. of Point Pleasant and the Beni Kedem Shrine in Charleston, WV. He was also a member of the Rotary Club. As a charter member of the Photography Club in Point Pleasant, Cooper documented varied aspects of life and landscapes, which were displayed at several businesses in Point Pleasant.
Mr. Cooper's interest in Christmas tree farm production and income from Christmas trees continued, and in 1972 he bought an abandoned 57-acre farm on Route 87 in Mason County, and in 1973, named it Santa's Forest. As part of developing Santa's Forest, he reconstructed a 100-plus year old log cabin as the hub of his business and then built several more buildings, which he used for storing equipment and materials for Santa's Forest, all from reconstructed old log cabins. He retired from SCS in 1979 and devoted his time to improving and expanding Santa's Forest. In 1993, he was recognized for having the Conservation Farm of the Year in Mason County.
Mr. Cooper presented trees from Santa's Forest, at Christmas, to three West Virginia governors. Later, as president in 1979, of the West Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association (WVCTGA), he represented WVCTGA, when a West Virginia tree was presented to the White House during the Carter administration, and met First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, in person. He was also a member of the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA),and he and Mary enjoyed travelling to many National Conventions throughout the United States.
Mr. Cooper was known for his writing and photography skills, and three times had articles published in Goldenseal magazine. He was also founder, in 1995 of Life, Liberty, and Freedom, an organization to preserve the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. Later, a second chapter was organized in Ohio and a third in Charleston, WV.
At the age of 92 Mr. Cooper received what he considered to be the highest professional honor of his lifetime. He was inducted into The West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame at WVU Jackson's Mill in 2012. The West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame is an incorporated, independent, non-profit, nonpartisan foundation devoted to honoring West Virginians who have made outstanding contributions to the "establishment, development, advancement, or improvement" of the agricultural and forestry industries in West Virginia and the nation.
Mr. Cooper was blessed in his long life with family, wonderful friends, dedicated and loving caregivers, and an extremely devoted doctor who attended Mr. Cooper through the years to the end, Dr. Harold Ayers. The family wishes to thank all these people who have blessed their father through his life.
Mr. Cooper is survived by his children, Rev. John and Dr. Elizabeth Cooper-Martin of Rockville, Maryland and Mary Jane and Richard Cole of Pinch, West Virginia; and six grandchildren, Adam Cooper, Mark Cooper, Liana Cole, Evan Cole, Laura Cooper-Martin, and Luke Cooper-Martin.
Mr. Cooper was preceded in death by his wife, Mary; sister, Edith Davis; and brothers, Frank and Newton Cooper.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m., Wednesday, September 18, 2013, at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Point Pleasant with Rev. James F. Kelly, III officiating. The church's website is http://www.trinitypp.org/Home_Page.html
to obtain info, as needed). Burial will follow in the Auburn Baptist Church Cemetery, in Gilmer County, WV. Visitation will be at Trinity United Methodist Church from 11:30 a.m. till 1 p.m., Wednesday.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations be made to Trinity United Methodist Church building fund in Point Pleasant, or the charity of their choice in memory of their father.
Arrangement are under the direction of the Wilcoxen Funeral Home in Point Pleasant. Online condolences may be made at www.wilcoxenfuneralhome.com