Gordon Burns Cooper
1961 - 2020
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Gordon Burns Cooper died on Oct. 17, 2020. Burns was born on Jan. 28, 1961, in Morristown, New Jersey, the third son in a family of displaced Texans, while his father was studying for a Master of Sacred Theology, during the snowiest winter in New Jersey history. This set the pattern for his life: Burns became an academic, and he eventually settled in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Burns grew up in Dallas and graduated from Highland Park High School. He won a scholarship to Yale University and he took a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. In 1991, he accepted a faculty appointment at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he remained for the rest of his career, teaching literature, English and linguistics. He became a professor and served as interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts. His colleagues note that calm authority, constant encouragement and trademark good humor characterized his teaching.
Burns loved music and words. He was a clarinetist and a poet. He wrote books and poetry and music. He hated parties, but he loved doing things with his friends. He made life-long friends over Dungeons & Dragons, he played klezmer in the band Almost A Minyan, and he hiked all over Alaska. He continually remade himself, trading biking for skiing, becoming a woodworker and a dog lover, and moving from English poetics to forensic linguistics over his research career. He studied in Mexico and Scotland and York, England, where he took a M.Sc. in forensic speech science, with distinction. He had a dry, sharp sense of humor, and he had no trouble making fun of himself, but he was unfailingly kind to the people around him. 
He met Sandra Leigh Boatwright in 1991, when she arrived in Fairbanks for a one-year teaching job. On the basis of a bad driver's license photo, Burns insisted on picking Sandra up at the airport, so he could meet her before anyone else. They married in 1993, to the surprise and relief of both their families, and they spent the next 27 years and 9 months loving each other and having a pretty good time. They traveled and worked and made a good life in Alaska for themselves and their friends.
Burns was preceded in death by his brother-in-law, James Scott Boatwright, and he is survived by his wife, Sandra; her parents, Bob and Joy Boatwright, of Bristol, Virginia; his parents, Bob and Shirley Cooper, of Dallas, Texas; his brothers, Glenn (and wife Liz), of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and Gary (Blair), of McAllen, Texas; and his nephew, Robert Cooper (Katie), of Chicago, Illinois.
Thanks to our Houston cousins, Media and Steve Nazarenus, for taking us in when we were treatment refugees. Thanks to Uncle Arlen and Shirley K. Burns, who took care of us during our Seattle stay and fielded many phone calls. Thanks to our Fairbanks and Dallas friends for being stalwart friends and for supporting us through Burns' illness.
Thanks to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Hospice Services for your help and kindness in these last weeks.
A celebration of Burns' life will be held at a later date, when face-to-face gatherings are reasonable again.
The G. Burns Cooper Memorial Fund will support young faculty researchers at the University of Alaska. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to this fund at engage.alaska.edu (indicate "for G. Burns Cooper Memorial Fund" in the comments section) or by contacting the University of Alaska Foundation at uaf-giving@alaska.edu or 907-474-2619.
Arrangements are entrusted to Chapel of Chimes.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Oct. 22, 2020.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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11 entries
October 26, 2020
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Michelle Bartlett
October 26, 2020
Sandra, I was so sorry to hear that Burns had passed. Nothing I can say will make the pain less. But I am thinking of you and remembering Burns. He was a smart and kind man and the world is lessened without him.
—Sue Mitchell
Sue Mitchell
October 24, 2020
so very sorry to read of Burns passing its sad times that make people stop and think.. Sandra be strong and safe
Thomas McCarty
October 24, 2020
So very sorry to hear of Burns passing. He was a great guy, gentle , funny, always kind.
Gary & Deb Porter
October 23, 2020
I am sorry to hear of Burn´s passing. I remember him from HighSchool. The best way to describe him is that he was kind. Burns was in the band with my younger sister, Janice. The HPHS Band was a close knit group in those days. I do remember him playing chess in the cafeteria. May his family find peace.
Lois Mitchell Batson
October 23, 2020
He was a great mentor, confidant, and traveling companion. One of the highlights of my adult life was the 12 days spent visiting Burns in York while he studied for his MSc in Forensic Linguistics. The car visit to Scotland, including stops in Edinburgh and at Loch Ness, was the best--twa laddies on the high road.
Rich Carr
October 23, 2020
Sandra and friends, I am so sad to learn this. Burns was the inspiration for me to pursue a Masters Degree in Linguistics with no prior background in the subject. He was high on the list of the best teachers I’ve ever had, always patient, encouraging, and inspiring. We shared a love of skijoring, too.
Gail Davidson
October 23, 2020
Sandra, We only just learned of Burns' illness. I'm sorry we couldn't do anything to help or encourage during this time. He was an encouraging and gentle presence for me while I was wrestling with my thesis 21 years ago. His humor and knowledge were apparent from day one. We are so very sorry for your loss. Take care.
Suzette Holman and Greg Simpson
October 22, 2020
My condolences go out to Sandra and Burns' close family and friends. I loved playing music with Burns. He was a kind, encouraging, funny, and gentle bandmate. Our musical journey from the "Shy Klezmer Band" to "Almost a Minyan" was a great experience. It was truly a joy to see and hear Burns grow as a musician and back him up when he nailed clarinet solos. He is sorely missed.
Patty Burns
October 22, 2020
So sorry for your loss, Sandra. I will remember fondly breaking bread and sharing much laughter with you and Burns. Be well...
Michael E Welsh
October 22, 2020
Burns was one of a kind: sweet-natured, generous, quietly funny (so funny!) and a calm presence in the English department.
Gerri Brightwell
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