Longtime Lufkin volunteer dies following surgery

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - East Texans remember the life of a man who had a big influence in the community through his passion for life and service.

Woody Cooper, 90, of Lufkin died around 6 a.m. Tuesday morning from a blockage in his internal organs. He leaves behind Patsy, who was his wife of 61 years, four of his five children, three grandchildren, and his dog, Highway.

Cooper's son, Steve Cooper, says his father was in good health prior to his passing. He says his dad mowed three yards on Saturday, worked his own yard on Sunday, and by Monday complained about not feeling well. Steve says his dad was taken to Woodland Heights Medical Center around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, where he underwent emergency surgery. Surgery was successful, but Cooper's son says he never regained consciousness.

Cooper was originally from Oklahoma, and because of that, Steve says his father reminded him of Will Rodgers. Steve believes Cooper lived up to Rodger's quote, "he never met a man he didn't like". After graduating high school, Cooper qualified for the Coast Guard, where he was sent to Wyoming to train military dogs for the Army and Marine Corps. Steve recalls his father loved animals, planting, yard work, and volunteering.

"You grow up around it, and it kind of leaves you a legacy that you kind of have to live up to," said Steve Cooper.

Prior to his death, Cooper coached, taught, and coordinated sports activities at the State Supported Living Center in Lufkin. He was later named the first director of the Foster Grandparent Program at the living center. Foster grandparents lived under the motto "we live to love" and were retired people who volunteered time into the community by going to schools, hospitals, and largely the state living center. Cooper also partnered with Dr. Dickerson of SFA for an annual meeting for the "grandparents" to come out and hang out together for one weekend out of each year. The meeting was later called the Woody Cooper Memorial Foster Grandparent Jamboree. The program later included a partnership with Baylor University as well.

For a former supervisor and a longtime friend, the news of Cooper's death is surprising. "It's kind of a shock because it's the passing of a legend. Woody contributed a tremendous amount to the community," said Royce Garrett, Director of Consumer and Family Relations at the State Supported Living Center.

Cooper's body has been donated to Baylor Medical School.

The family plans to have a service to celebrate Cooper's life on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Carroway Funeral Home in Lufkin. They ask that no one wears black, as they want it to be a joyous occasion. The family also asks that no one brings flowers, but if you would instead plant a tree in Cooper's honor.

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