My father died on September 25th. At high noon. In the midst of his favorite season – hunting season. His passing leaves a void in our lives and each day we struggle to maintain our balance on the edge of this void, trying not to give in to grief and self-pity for our loss. Dad said several times that when he died he did not want us to mourn but to celebrate his life. As with so many things he asked of us, this is difficult. It will take time.
For me, his death is a passage I knew was inevitable but have always dreaded. I will miss him every day. His intelligence, his humor, his generosity, his infectious curiosity and enthusiasm, and the example of his unwavering integrity and strength of character are not to be found in any other single person of my acquaintance. I will miss his advice and his company. I will miss his expectations and his judgements. I will miss the pleasure it gave me to do something well enough to make him proud of me.
When my sisters and I were growing up, our parents were our moral and spiritual guides. Their consistent message was one of self-reliance, integrity, honor, and a cheerful appreciation of the wonders of the world. From Dad I also learned a passion for adventure – an intense desire to learn what lies over the next ridge.
Dad was a lifelong student with a passion to impart knowledge. He was the ultimate teacher. In the Marine Corps, Dad learned to write and he came to understand that if you don’t write it down, it never happened! Thus he formed the habit of writing down his experiences, his studies of various and sundry things and his thoughts and opinions of what he learned from it all. It is a blessing for his posterity that he did so.
As an adult, I took both pistol and rifle courses from my father and I discovered what all his other students found with him- lifelong friendships and the skills and awareness to maneuver with confidence through this dangerous world. I thought I understood that this was his legacy to the world. It seems I was wrong. His legacy is far more.
In just a few days following my father’s death, my mother received over 350 messages of condolence from 20 countries. They are still pouring in. These expressions of support for us and gratitude for my father’s life are comforting and moving, and also enlightening.
What has really struck me is how many of these messages are of thanks – thanks for “giving me confidence”, for “saving my life”, for “saving the lives of my men”, for “setting the example”, for “being the person you are”. Shooting is the least of what I learned from him, and there will be no replacing what he has been in my life.
So many people have written eloquently about my father:
Fortunate is the man whose presence or the mere thought of whom is cause for self-correction! Fortunate are those who so venerate such a man that the memory of him is cause for self-betterment
Col. Cooper and Finn Aagaard .taught me so much more than skill-at-arms. They taught me how a proper man conducts himself. They taught me to appreciate. They taught me to marvel. They taught me the value of America, the last, great hope of the civilized world. They taught me to strive to be better in all things
He had an exacting commitment to the truth. He had an appreciation of excellence in every form of human endeavor, and in his presence people always strove to be at their best. He had an adventurous spirit, which he displayed not only in hunting, expeditions, and war, but in founding Gunsite in his mid-fifties Taking Kipling”s If as a checklist, I believe that Jeff could answer yes to nearly every one of the desiderata laid out.
There is a saying that one should never meet one’s heroes because of the inevitable disappointment. That was not the case with Jeff Cooper; not even close.
Simplicity, integrity, truth and elegance come to mind when I think of Jeff Cooper. His independent thought, by itself, in his writings, was a joy to experience.
.. I had expected to be intimidated by his command presence, to be somewhat overwhelmed by his knowledge and authority..When I met him, I was impressed by all those things, yet what I remember most, what surprised and thrilled me, was how much I liked him. How willing and eager he was to share, to learn, to teach, to make us strong and capable.
Your demonstrated personal character, philosophy of life, pursuit of excellence, love for country, reverence for God, and intolerance for the enemies of freedom has given thousands of us a foundation that will grow and remain strong through our children far into the future.
His constancy made weaker men resolve to stand with him against those who despise morality and character; who would deny arms to the righteous that they might prey on the innocent; who seek to undermine communities of free men that they might rule as despots; who would outlaw the Big laws of God that they might enslave men with small laws written by lawyers and bureaucrats in cowardly anonymity; who in the name of tolerance censor Truth and sack the free marketplace of human ideas; who view “love of neighbor” as weakness and their own avarice as strength; who despise and denigrate the only principles that have ever made men free and prosperous.
We all owe a debt to him, one that we must repay in how we live our lives and how we teach those who will only know him through his body of work. It’s not just about shooting. It is honor, and duty, and loveI am very sad that he is gone, but very happy that he lived.
It is difficult to grasp the depth and breadth of the impact his life and his life’s work have had upon this world. This, along with our ability to move past our grief and celebrate his life, will take time. In this, the newness of our loss, I am heartened to hear that so many have learned so much from my father, not only from his teachings and his writings but also from his example. I think I can glimpse something of the magnitude of his legacy and it is wondrous. It is cause to celebrate. I am thankful to be a part of it.
Lindy Cooper Wisdom
October 14, 2006
The Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation
The Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation was formed shortly after his death by his family for the purpose of ensuring that his life’s work be commemorated appropriately for posterity. To this end, the Foundation will focus on preserving, housing and displaying his various collections (weapons, art, library, personal papers and memorabilia as well as his writings) and providing scholarships for firearms training in the best Cooper tradition.
The Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation has been designated exempt from Federal income tax under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to the Foundation are deductible under section 170 of the Code. The Foundation is also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code.
Donations to the Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation are welcome. Please direct these in care of Mrs. Lindy Cooper Wisdom, 16 East Dawn Drive, Tempe , Arizona 85284 .