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Michael J. Cooney

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Good food, art and friends were victim's passions


Michael J. Cooney loved the good things in life, but he especially loved his friends, his cat and antique Asian ceramics.

"He loved people who were beautiful on the inside," said his best friend and former Belleville resident Marcia Scrivner, who now lives in St. Pete Beach, Fla. "He loved the beach where we lived for the beauty and sounds of the water. And he dearly loved his cat. He's a twin to my daughter's cat. We brought them from Albuquerque, N.M., about five years ago."

She said Cooney was a complicated, private person who loved good food, wine, art, friends and everything beautiful. Scrivner, who is married to former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Roger Scrivner, knew Cooney for 40 years and will care for his estate and his gray cat, Oscar, who was named for Oscar Wilde and was a twin to her daughter's cat.

Robert O'Rear, who used to operate the Belleville Antique Mall, said he has known Cooney through their common business for years.

"I'm just trying to catch my breath," O'Rear said upon learning the news of the hairdresser's murder. "I'd bought art from him at times. He was a dealer in the Antique Mall for four or five years."

O'Rear said Cooney had a reputation as a lover of fine dining and as a generous tipper.

"He was very particular with the way he liked his food prepared," O'Rear said, "But when the restaurant staff took good care of him, he took good care of them."

Cooney and Scrivner spent holidays and special occasions together, but she said any time with Cooney was fun.

"My favorite time with Michael was when he laughed out loud. He'd giggle and laugh and it was just a heartfelt, loving, let-everything-go kind of happiness.... You'd have a difference of opinion and work through it, and at the end he'd just laugh," Scrivner said.

She said when Cooney got a hair client, they were with him for good. He often followed them to their nursing homes and then to the funeral home, doing their final styling for free.

Brian Geer, a volunteer at a downtown Belleville resale shop, said he knew Cooney from the booth he often operated at the antique shows held at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds.

And the Cooney he knew sported flowery shirts pulled out at the waist, and always had cash on hand.

"He was a low-key guy who loved antiques. I think he liked oriental stuff quite well. Ceramics, wood work. He had to be dealing with cash because he would buy some buyers out and then he would set up down at the fairgrounds and sell items there," Geer said.

Alice Odenwald, of Fort Myers, Fla., was also Cooney's friend and lent him the money for his house when the banks wouldn't. She said he was a master of conversation when his clients were in his salon chair.

"We'd talk about art, music, everything. He had a real love for antiques and jewelry," Odenwald said.

She said Cooney was close to his mother, who died a few years ago, and is survived by two brothers, one in Virginia and another in Tennessee.

Alice Odenwald's son, Roland Odenwald, of Belleville, has also known Cooney for years.

"He was so warm and nice. He'd do things for his clients – follow them to the nursing homes. He had a way about him and knew the older styles. He would take care of them," Odenwald said.

There was no sign outside Cooney's beauty salon. He didn't need a sign to attract business, Odenwald said, because his clientele was so loyal.
Published in Belleville News-Democrat on Mar. 3, 2005
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