Honoring Tom Cooper

Good morning everyone- Thank you for coming. I can see you are a wonderful and diverse group that has gathered here today to remember Tom. Like one of the many gatherings hosted by Tom & Jane you represent a mix of ages, backgrounds, beliefs and, yes, appearances. Tom Cooper was interested and active in so many areas, It's easy to find some way to honor his life and memory. On behalf of the Cooper and Salazar families I'd like to help you recall some of the best of Tom.

We can remember Tom through visiting some of his many landmarks around Denver and the state. We can honor Tom by joining in with some civic or social group and making it a little better by your presence. We can honor his memory by playing or attending a musical event. We can let Tom live on by exploring a hidden wild place in the mountains, on a river, or by exploring many different cultures and countries. We can create new friendships and connections between friends. We Coopers- Jane, Tony, Anne, Myself, Jose, Deborah and Petra, the Salazar and Cooper grand children and great grandchildren can honor Tom by continuing with our family traditions- busy full lives, Wacky dinner conversations, good food and drink, time spent together. One of my good friends Chris Sweeney, and his wife Nini could not be here today. Chris, along with Jerry Cox , and Bruce Cranmer enjoyed Tom and Jane's company on 1990 grand canyon river trip and they are honoring Tom by purchasing a goat for a needy family in Tom's Name. Fitting because like Tom, goats are highly efficient, comfortable in all environments, and not picky about what they eat.

Like his grandfather Thomas Ekrem, Tom built things. His grandfather used stone, atop Lookout mountain, at the Bear mansion up Pine creek, at the Santa Maria shrine near Bailey, and in foundations throughout old Denver. The two Toms helped to build Denver. Tom Cooper used plastic, Here at the Botanical gardens, at the Air Force Academy, at the Boettcher Symphony Hall, In countless Denver homes and businesses and for those of you who remember, with apologies, the old Red Slipper along Colorado Boulevard. In that building of things Tom also helped to build jobs and lives for the many people associated with Plasticrafts, Incorporated. To say Tom was an equal opportunity employer is putting it mildly. It probably helped with Tom if a potential employee or a potential customer or client had a quirk or two, maybe even three. That way he had a bit more of a challenge and he could also then find that special niche for that special quirk and fit the two together in a perfect match. He also worked that magic with people in his many other groups and associations. So we can honor Tom with things and friendships well fitted and well built.

Tom loved the outdoors, in Colorado and around the world. We camped and fished as a family from my earliest memories. Every weekend we would head out, piled into the station wagon for some outdoor adventure. Usually we would take the back roads, Georgia pass, Weston Pass, Independence long before it was paved.

Later, after some early river pioneers purchased their fiberglass and resin from plasticrafts, they introduced Tom and Jane to whitewater canoeing and river running. Tom and Jane took to it with a sometimes-blinding passion. We remember Tom's old Cadillac convertible, converted for the new river runners, with a hideous rusted angle iron superstructure for a boat rack. Or the time or two when the boats flew off of the car and Tom would try to calm the other, nearly missed motorists, by nonchalantly stating a little lie- Oh this usually happens, don't worry, we're fine. I remember John Altman and Tom paddling the Platte below Twin Cedars. I was in the middle hole of our Kidder canoe and it went something like this- You see that big Rock ahead? Let‚s go Left, No let‚s go right, no let‚s- well, John grabbed me as I popped up in the air and Tom grabbed some of the gear. A couple of hours later they had the canoe pried off of that big rock. Tom and Jane took up racing their canoe around the state and region. This was significant for me in two ways. It became my passion for many years. Also through the materials and molds that plasticrafts supplied, Tom and Jane came to be known as someone who would loan a canoe to paddlers visiting from out of state or out of the country. Several paddlers visiting from the Czech republic borrowed our old boats and some thirty years ago Stan and Ema, world champions newly emigrated from Czechslovakia showed up at our door saying, I am Stan. To make a slightly longer story short Stan and ema's daughter Petra and I shared in the birth of our baby daughter, Emilia, three weeks ago.

Tom and Jane with their canoe explored the Santiago River in Mexico and the canyons of the Yampa and Green long before Eco- tourism was in vogue. Tom along with Ron Mason explored the upper Platte canyons long before creeking or extreme sports had entered our lexicon.

Tom had a special place in his heart for the Gore range- exploring it, hiking through it, and introducing people to it. Tom worked there as a surveying assistant during his college years. We camped there countless times, and hosted numerous company campouts where Tom, the boss of plasticrafts, would take the willing or duped participants on"a little hike up to a lake nearby" Many hours, and on a good day, many fish later they would stumble back into camp for tall tales, pan fried brookies or rainbows, campfires and maybe some of Jane's daquiris for some general anesthetic. In the early sixties we were backpacking high on the ridge between Rock and Boulder Creeks when Tony spied the reflection of a window pane far below at an old, abandoned, but reasonably well preserved cabin, Tom‚s beloved patented claim, the Orphan Boy Lode. Many of you have been to the Orphan Boy, many of you more than once. Tom loved to challenge himself by going to the cabin late into his seventies. He loved the Colorado history, the clear cool air, the high, craggy mountain cirques, the snowfields and the springfed mountain creeks.

Many years ago when his friend Ed Hilliard died in a mountaineering accident in the Maroon Bells, Tom volunteered the Orphan Boy and the entourage of friends buried Ed in one of those high crags. Don't tell the Forest Service- it might not fit in their current definition of multi or wise-use. On the way out, the funeral party- many Colorado wilderness conservationists, many of you here today, put their beliefs and words into action and dragged a hundred trees across that old sinuous Jeep road, letting Ed rest as he would have liked it, a little farther away, a little harder to get to.

Tom too was an Orphan Boy, His father a victim of tuberculosis and his mother a victim of grief and depression, leaving Tom with no parents at the age of twelve. Maybe that's why Tom loved groups. He was always a joiner. Group sports- How many of you have played a set of tennis or a game of squash with Tom? He was in a fraternity in college and active with his East High Alumni group. Because of his social nature, overall competence, and a knack for what they now call networking, he ended up in leadership positions with many of those groups. He was very involved in the early and middle days of the Colorado White Water Association. Later he was Commodore of the American Canoe Association, taking that group from a filing box to a national presence in river access and conservation. He was a member of the Colorado State board of labor and management, helping to provide a framework for resolving labor issues in Colorado. After his work with plasticrafts he used his executive skills for social improvement. He became head of the board of trustees for the Eleanor Roosevelt Cancer Research Institute. He was a volunteer for Inesco- the business executive's version of the Peace Corps. With Inesco, Tom and Jane traveled to Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Africa, helping small plastics companies to become better businesses, often with a mix of of improved employee-employer quality circles, executive organization, and a little preventive maintenance thrown in for good measure. He was active in several Denver area park projects. This led to the renovated sculptures in Burns park, The City park "Big" Lake being renamed for Tom Ferril, and for the development of the confluence park and south platte greenbelts. He was a founder of the Friday Club, a lunch gathering with a tremendous variety of Denver businessmen, liberal and conservative, young or weathered, old Denver or neophytes. This group still meets, eats, maybe drinks and then discusses or conducts a Socratic like seminar over a bewildering range of topics. So you can honor Tom by your involvement and activism with a group bent on improving our lives or planet or just by enjoying the hearty exchange of ideas.

Tom loved music and art. From his early days with his teacher, Betsy Tewksberry he learned to play and loved to play the piano. He played at college parties. He played for tips at the Sheridan Bar in Telluride , working as a health inspector in the mines during the day. He played for decades of Christmas Carols with family and friends singing along. As Alzhymer's took him from us he still clutched hard to his core, his piano playing, his piano music.

He loved to hear good music as well- attending Denver classical music performances for probably over sixty years. He eventually became president of the Colorado Friends of Chamber Music Society. During this tenure he became close friends with members of the Emerson Quartet, and today Larry Dutton is honoring Tom with his beautiful playing.

Tom and Jane would often travel to Aspen for the summer music festival. Enjoying friends, days outdoors and wonderful music. During one of those trips Larry called and invited Tom and Jane to a little evening gathering. The renowned soloist, Ihtzaak Perlman, had invited five other players over so they could enjoy some of the chamber music that his fame rarely allowed him to play. Tom marveled over the way those virtuosos blended together that evening for years. You can all honor Tom by attending a concert, playing a piece, and recalling his love for music and by supporting the arts.

Last but not least Tom Cooper was a devoted husband and father. As a father he gently pushed us but didn't force us with so many of our choices. He supported us through school and more school. He taught us to be tolerant of others beliefs and opinions, but also to know exactly what we stood for. Tom and Jane made sure were grewup with a variety of experiences, going to new and different places, and eating lots of weird and new things.

He Loved Janie always, and more and more as the years went on, and I'm sure he regretted not being able to go on more travels and adventures with his partner of fifty-four years. He loved his grand children and great grandchildren, proud of now six generations of Colorado Coopers. So again you can honor Tom by taking some time to talk and be with your families and Loved ones.

In the next hour or more please come forward with your own small or tall tale of Tom Cooper and later this summer you may wish to join us as we hike into the Orphan Boy to spread Tom's ashes over those high mountain meadows. Again thank you for coming today and honoring Tom Cooper, a Denver and Colorado Poineer.