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Paul Lane Cooper


1929 - 2019 Obituary Condolences
Paul Lane Cooper Obituary
Paul Lane Cooper
Oct. 20, 1929 - May 8, 2019
Resident of Pleasant Hill
Paul Lane Cooper passed away on Wednesday at his home in Pleasant Hill, the city in which he and his family had lived since 1962 and upon which he made a lasting impact as a husband, father, neighbor and public servant. Paul was born in Berkeley CA where he grew up and later graduated from St. Mary's College High School. By his own admission, he did not distinguish himself as a student in these early years. He did however, accomplish something of far more importance and lasting value to him, as he sought and won the heart of a young Marie Petrolina, later to be his lifelong spouse and partner.
Paul and Marie were married on October 7, 1950, shortly after Paul's study of journalism at CCSF was interrupted by a call to active service in the Korean Conflict. As later recounted in Weekend Warriors, a self-published personal memoir of this formative time as an enlisted man at sea, Paul shipped out on the USS Princeton, where he served on the hazardous flight deck in support of the valiant pilots who he greatly admired.
Released from active duty on September 14, 1951 and reunited with his bride, he returned his focus to earning a living and raising a growing family. Working long hours while simultaneously improving his school record, he eventually achieved a seemingly unreachable goal: admission to the University of California, Berkeley, the campus where he had played as a kid, sneaking into football games while purportedly selling game programs. With Marie's support, and still working part-time, he graduated from Cal in 1959 with a BA in Labor and Industrial Relations, also earning a Certificate in Industrial Relations.
Paul immediately put his degree to use when he entered private industry, working for International Harvester and other industrial manufacturing companies before joining the public sector in 1967 with the newly established Bay Area Rapid Transit District. Once there, he helped to hire BART's initial workforce and establish its labor relations policies well before any trains were rolling. Over the course of the next 25 years of system operation, he represented management in many important contract negotiations with BART's various unions, winning the respect of union leaders across the bargaining table. He retired from BART after a long and successful career in 1992.
He was not really retired, however. During his time at BART, Paul had launched a second, parallel career also involving public service. He served on the numerous public boards, including the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors, and the Contra Costa County Water Board. The high point of his political career was serving for 21 years as an elected Councilman on the Pleasant Hill City Council, including serving as Mayor of Pleasant Hill for five separate terms, a first in the city's history. Even after leaving elective politics, he remained in the public eye, writing 190 freelance newspaper columns for the Contra Costa Times through the end of 2011. Through it all, however, Paul let it be known that his greatest accomplishment was being married to his beloved Marie and, with her, raising a family.
Paul was preceded in death by his parents Quina and Lawrence Cooper, his brother Dick Cooper, and his sister Anita (Hank) Weiss. He is survived by his loving wife Marie Cooper and sister-in-law Barbara Cooper, his children Kenny (Jaan) Cooper, Rick (Mary Jane) Cooper, Greg (Mary Jo) Cooper, Donna (Ned) Comar, and Gail (Mark) VavRosky, his nine grandchildren Issac Cooper, Grace Cooper, Faith Cooper, Danielle Cooper, Benjamin Comar, Nathanial Comar, Shannon VavRosky Garcia, Paige VavRosky, and Cameron VavRosky, and numerous other cousins. His call to public service and his love of Cal Berkeley will be missed by all who knew him. In lieu of flowers, donations to the University of California Berkeley in his honor would be welcomed. See https://alumni.berkeley.edu/give/give-to-scholarships


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Published in East Bay Times on May 12, 2019
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