Jack Lawrence Cooper, 90, lifelong rancher, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, passed away peacefully at his home on Tuesday, June 3, 2008, surrounded by his family.
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The oldest of five children, Jack was born to Frank and Anna (Shogren) Cooper on Sept. 12, 1917. He was raised on his family's homestead and received his education at Willow Creek High School.
On Oct. 30, 1948, Jack married Phyllis Georgieana Garcelon in Clear Lake, Wis. Together they raised three children, Bob, Mark and Lois.
Jack remained on his family's ranch throughout his life. He bought his father's small dairy farm and built it into a nationally recognized cattle operation. Jack and Phyllis' association with the cattle industry brought many wonderful people into their lives who eventually became lifelong friends. Many cups of coffee and cookies were shared and memories made around their kitchen table.
A charismatic man who led by example, Jack's quiet nature and loving arms touched many people throughout his life. He was a man with a firm handshake, a tender heart, and a contagious smile. Known by many as a prankster, Jack loved telling stories and was quick to laugh at himself and his past. Jack loved his family very much and remained in contact with them and his many close friends throughout his life.
An avid sports fan, Jack spent a great deal of his time following his children's and grandchildren's sporting events. He and Phyllis attended many Bobcat games and enjoyed watching the Boston Celtics on TV. The two also enjoyed playing cards and traveling.
Jack's passion for ranching and his keen knowledge of Hereford cattle led him to be one of the premier Hereford breeders in the world. He received numerous awards and recognitions for his accomplishments. In 1975, he was honored by the Beef Improvement Federation as Seed Stock Producer of the Year and as Outstanding Cattleman by the Gallatin County Beef Producers. Jack also won the Agricultural Recognition Award by the Bozeman chapter of Alpha Zeta. In 1980 he was inducted into the American Hereford Association's Hereford Heritage Hall's Honor Gallery. He was an active member in the American Hereford Association, National Cattlemen's Association, Beef Improvement Federation and Montana Stock Growers Association. He was a charter member of the Montana Beef Performance Association, a board member for the Federal Land Bank Association, and an area trustee for the Yellowstone Boys Ranch.
Jack was also an active member in his community. He served on the Willow Creek school board for 25 years, was a 4-H club leader for five years, and served on the Willow Creek water and cemetery boards. He was a longtime member of the Willow Creek Methodist Church, Three Forks Masonic Lodge No. 73, and the Baghdad Shriner Center.
Jack was preceded in death by his wife, Phyllis, of 53 years; parents, Frank and Anna Cooper; sisters, Constance Rowe and Betty Woodward; half-brothers, Leslie Holden and Raymond Cooper; half-sisters, Helen Green and Verniece Torgerson Byrd.
Jack is survived by his three children, Robert (Adeline) Cooper of Bozeman, Mark (Cristy) Cooper of Willow Creek, Lois (Doug) Zeitner of Billings; eight grandchildren: Gabrielle Cooper of Bozeman; Tracy (Stuart) Schopp of Bozeman; Kelsy and Natalie Cooper of Willow Creek; Katie Cooper of Sacramento, Calif.; Kellie Zeitner of Nan Province, Thailand; Chad Zeitner of Kalispell; Kimberly Zeitner of Billings; and three great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Marjorie Kegel of Miles City; brother, C. Scott Cooper of Arizona; and numerous nieces and nephews.
We don't have the words to express our gratitude to Dr. Castillo and her nursing staff, his kind caregivers, the hospice team, and the overwhelming support and generosity of his faithful friends who never left his side. We will all treasure his life in our hearts. Jack was a very gentle and honorable man. He embraced death as he graced life – with a smile.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 7, at the Willow Creek High School gymnasium. Cremation will follow the service. Viewing will be on Friday, June 6, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Willow Creek. Private family interment will be held at Willow Creek Cemetery at a later date.
Should friends desire, memorials may be made to the Yellowstone Boys Ranch Foundation, P.O. Box 80807, Billings, MT 59108; American Hereford Association, P.O. Box 014059, Kansas City, MO 64101; Willow Creek United Methodist Church, Willow Creek, MT; or to a charity of your choice.
Please visit www.cooperherefords.com to view photos celebrating Jack's life.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on June 5, 2008