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Marjorie Johnson Cooper

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Marjorie Johnson Cooper, aka Marjorie Townsend, 82, of Tucumcari went to be with the Lord Saturday, April 4, at 4:19 pm. Memorial service will be Tuesday, April 7, at 2:00 pm in the Center Street United Methodist Church. Memorials may be given to Helping Hands Hospice or to Center Street United Methodist Church.
She is survived by her husband, Joe H. Cooper, whom she married on the 4th of July, 1976. She is also survived by her children, Robert William Townsend and wife, Rachel June Townsend of Albuquerque; her daughter, Ann Frances Brewer and husband, Edward Brewer of Coarsegold, CA; grandchildren, Christina Frances Wojdak, Corrie Faye Scott, Leah Skye Townsend, Steven Hillis, and 2 great grand children, with another due later this month.
She was preceded in death by her mother, Myrtle Anderson Johnson; father, Francis C. Johnson and stepmother, Segrid Johnson.
In Tucumcari, Marjorie started a domestic violence prevention and care organization. She helped initiate the Tucumcari medical community's promotion of diabetic home-health monitoring. Marge was a charter member of both the local United Way and Helping Hands Hospice, where she served as a volunteer dietetic specialist on their professional staff. She was a member of Altrusa women's service club. She and her husband, Joe, owned and operated Cooper's Thriftway supermarket where she was active in the business as personnel manager and providing free individual diet instruction with an emphasis on practical diabetic diets. Marge has been a lay-speaking member of Center Street United Methodist Church since 1976, and has served on the Administrative Board there since 1978.
Prior to her service to the community of Tucumcari, she was trained in the path of public service and love by her college-level Sunday school teacher, Hubert H. Humphrey. He helped her to evolve into an active civil rights advocate long before the term "civil rights" was a commonly used term. Marge was a long-active member of the League of Women Voters, the Campaign Chairwoman for Ed Mead when he ran as a Democratic candidate for the governorship of New Mexico, and an enthusiastic 63 year member of the Democratic party – much to the distress of some of her very conservative family members. She felt she heard the voice of God calling her to public service, and she never relented in that pursuit until the Lord called her to do the same in heaven.
Marjorie was born in Minnesota, a mere 6 years after the 19th Amendment that granted voting rights to women – the daughter of a proud, but humble chauffeur – starting life in a garage apartment. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in dietetics, she completed her a dietetic internship at the Mayo Clinic. Marjorie established a new office of "Clinical Therapeutic Dietetics" at Nicollet Clinic in Minneapolis, MN. At this clinic she was the first registered dietitian to be allowed to administer adjustments to insulin doses for patients (possibly the first dietitian to do this nationally).
She first moved to New Mexico in 1957. She spent 3-4 years in the 1960's working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs where she taught skills they requested such as reupholstering skills, and she was the only extension agent employed at the time who made daily visits out to reservation sites to check on the status of her programs. Marge set up programs that encouraged some tribes to reclaim skills that had begun to vanish in younger generations. She was an original staff member of the Albuquerque Job Corps where she launched their vocational Child Care and Home Economics programs. A statewide nutrition program in the public schools throughout Oklahoma was started under her supervision of the Dairy Council of Oklahoma, and she simultaneously chaired the statewide "Nutrition Task Force" at the request of the governor of Oklahoma. While working for the American Technical Assistance Corporation in Dallas, she administered a USDA grant to consult and plan with six state "Agencies on Aging" to set up Title VII "Meals for the Elderly" programs prior to federal funding. While employed by the New Mexico Agency on Aging, she pioneered state administration of "Meals for the Elderly, Title VII" for 25 sites around the state.
While serving in her 2 years as New Mexico's State Nutritionist (Chief of Office of Food and Nutrition, Planner IV) in Santa Fe, she did statewide nutrition planning and administered the 3 pilot projects for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program in New Mexico. She coordinated federal programs, state programs, grocer's associations, the USDA, infant-formula manufacturers, and varied local projects.
While working for the Office of Food and Nutrition, she filed a law suit that forced funding for the WIC program to grow from $1million to $4 million. This was the catalyst that transformed the WIC program from a grantsmanship game that gave a few states almost all the WIC funds into an entitlement program where the money was allocated on the basis of measured need in each state. The equation used by the USDA to distribute funding had been submitted to the USDA by her, four years before this suit, and had been ignored. She felt this was truly the apex of her professional career. It set the path to bettering the lives of millions of women and children throughout the country – a most wonderful legacy for her family and friends to remember her by.
As a mother and grandmother, she passed on the legacy of service. Her son, Robert, has a PhD in Family Studies, and is a LPCC mental heath counselor in Albuquerque. Her daughter, Ann, has a Master's Degree in Special Education, and received an "Outstanding Educator Award" from the Jaycees of Payson, AZ. Her grandchildren work as a 911 operator in Albuquerque, a service provider for disabled persons in Clovis, NM, a labor and delivery nurse in South Carolina, and a fund-raiser for the Social Sciences Department of the University of California in San Diego.
Most of all Marge was a lover of people as all who knew her can attest. She will be missed.
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