George Cooper

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Died peacefully on April 2, 2013, at the age of 96, facing his favorite view of the Santa Ynez mountains and valley, which he loved so much. Alton and Irene (Patton) Cooper welcomed their son on October 5, 1916 in Bellingham, Washington. George eventually attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, graduating in 1938 shortly after meeting the love of his life, Marsha Boughton. They were married for 69 years.

George started teaching at Berkeley Hall right out of college, but he wanted to be in business for himself, so he founded Plastic Die and Tool Company with his brother. After building a successful business and having two children, he was drafted into the Army 10 months before the war ended; he came home to find his company in ruins. Because he had always enjoyed horses and horseback riding, he thought he would make a living doing what he loved as the manager of a dude ranch in Three Rivers, California. But the family was soon ready to move on, this time to southern Oregon, where they bought a 400-acre ranch.

After a year of milking cows and feeding calves, they realized that although they were making a good living, it wasn't going to be enough to send two boys to college. They went back to Southern California and started another business, the George Cooper Company in Burbank, a distributor for the White Motor Company. But George found his greatest success after one of his many friends told him about a ready-mix concrete/building materials company for sale in Burbank. He and Marsha (and later their two sons) had Quality Ready Mix for close to 40 years, and a cellular concrete contracting firm, Webster Concrete Co., for 23 years. He was was an active member of Burbank's Rotary Club with 34 years of perfect attendance.

George maintained his interest in horses after coming back from Oregon. He joined Los Charros, where he later served as Camp Captain. In 1954 he became a member of Rancheros Visitadores where he was Director for six years. He also served as Captain of the Calabasas Mounted Sheriff's Posse, and was a member of both Los Caballeros and the Saddle and Sirloin Club.

When he retired to the Santa Ynez Valley he continued to ride, but it was here he discovered his extraordinary talent for restoring and building carriages. He built many kinds of carriages, wagons, and carts from scratch, often from just a photograph, and enjoyed driving his finished works through town. In the beginning he drove mules, but then moved on to Belgians and Belmores (a Belgian/Morgan mix). As driving became more difficult he graduated to antique cars--always Fords--including one that was just like his first car, a 1934 Ford Phaeton.

Always active in the community, he served on the Boards of both the Santa Ynez Valley Hospital Foundation (where he served as Treasurer and helped facilitate the merger with Cottage Hospital) and the Santa Ynez Historical Museum, where he was Chairman of the Finance Committee. He also attended the local Men's Forum for many years.

George was predeceased by his wife Marsha, his son Michael, and his brother Robert. He is survived by his son Andrew and daughter-in-law Mary Jane, their two children Jeffrey and Molly, Molly's husband Michael Rappaport, and great-grandchildren Evan and Mia Z. His family and friends, indeed the whole Valley, will miss him. He was an exceptional man. The family has planned a private service.

Published in The Santa Barbara News-Press Online Edition from Apr. 21 to Apr. 25, 2013
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