SERVICE DATE: September 30, 2017 at 11:00am
The family of James (Jim) Cooper announces the peaceful passing of their beloved father, husband and hero in his 94th year. Let it be said that the footprint of this private, principled family man belied his quiet, inauspicious manner. As a member of the greatest generation, he gave willingly to his country and asked for absolutely nothing in return.
Jim was born in Foley Township near Parry Sound on December 11, 1923, the third child of Theodore and Isabella Cooper. Theo and Isabella had eight children: six boys and two girls, and made their home in Parry Sound, Ontario.
Jim grew up during the depression years in Parry Sound when food and opportunity were scarce. His family moved eight times during the depression years. Hard work and “doing without” were routine.
When World War II descended upon Canada, Jim volunteered for service at the age of 18. He completed his basic training in Orillia, Ontario (No. 26 Canadian Army Basic Training Center), and went to Dundurn, Saskatchewan to complete his advanced training in reconnaissance. From there, he went overseas in the fall of 1943 aboard the Queen Elizabeth II landing in Woking, England, where he joined the South Alberta Regiment.
He continued to train in England as part of the 29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment in support of the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade (10th CIB).
His call into action came shortly after D-Day, on June 6, 1944. Following the D-Day landing, it took numerous weeks to clear the beach of debris and obstacles so that the Allied armoured divisions could land on a secure beachhead. His regiment landed at Normandy, France on July 22, 1944 at Courselles Beach just after the Canadian Army had captured Caen. He was a Trooper with the South Alberta Regiment, serving as a crew member in a Mark IV Sherman tank.
Jim unit’s first direct, offensive engagement was at Carpiquet Airport in France, which his division (4th Canadian Armoured) took by force, followed by another victory at Verriers Ridge.
Perhaps their most noteworthy victory came next when the South Alberta Regiment successfully completed the encirclement of remnants of the German 7th Army as they attempted to retreat through the Falaise Gap (St. Lambert sur Dives, France). Their surrender resulted in the award of the coveted Victoria Cross medal to Jim’s Squadron Commanding Officer, Major Dave Currie. His was the only Canadian military unit awarded a Victoria Cross during the Normandy, France (D-Day) campaign of 1944 and the only armoured unit to receive this medal in WWII. Jim was wounded in the battle and commented later in life, “We won it for him”.
Jim’s regiment went on to participate in the liberation of both Belgium and Holland. He was badly wounded in March 1945 during hard-fought resistance in the Hochwald Forest in Germany. His tank was struck by anti-tank fire, and he escaped with seared lungs and a shrapnel wound in his leg. Despite being wounded twice during the war, he survived and returned to Canada from overseas in 1946.
He married Frances Catherine Paquette on November 4, 1950 and began to raise his family in Parry Sound. He was employed as a fitter-tester at Orenda in Nobel, Ontario where he worked on the famous Iroquois engine that was slated for installation in the famous Avro Arrow. Jim often remarked on how well that engine performed and really regretted not seeing the Iroquois fitted into the Avro Arrow. He lost his job at Orenda in 1959, along with many men and women after the Avro Arrow program was prematurely cancelled and closed.
Jim moved his family to Chalk River and then Deep River in 1960 and worked at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited as an operator in the NRU Reactor building for 25 years. He and Frances (Fran) raised six children in Deep River, Ontario: Lynne, Doug, Randy, Mary, Janet and Steven. One child, Ian, had passed away shortly after birth in Parry Sound and was interred there in the family plot in Hillcrest Cemetery, Parry Sound. Jim lived at 21 Hillcrest Avenue until 2013, (53 years in Deep River), before he and Fran moved to Owen Sound for assisted living, and (later) extended care in Lee Manor, Owen Sound.
Jim was a quiet gentleman and an incredible, loving husband and father. He never asked for anything from anyone or his country, and he preferred to make sure his family and friends were looked after. He never complained or criticized, and he always shunned the limelight.
He was also a principled, duty-driven man who never talked about his war service or contributions. He wanted his kids to be the best they could be. He loved and took great care of his wife, Fran who survives him at Lee Manor in Owen Sound. Fran, his five remaining children (Lynne, pre-deceased 2013), 15 grandchildren and two great grandchildren will all miss him dearly, and he will always be a giant and hero in their lives across time.
To his many friends in Lee Manor, and Deep River, and his relations across North America, he would want them to know that he loved each and every last one of them. Jim was all about friends, neighbours, and family.
May he rest in peace, and may his soul soar over the hills and valleys of Deep River and Owen Sound before gently landing in Parry Sound’s Hillcrest Cemetery for final resting on Saturday September 30th, at 11:00 A.M., followed by a reception and luncheon at St. James Centennial United Church, 24 Mary Street, Parry Sound. We love you, Dad. Many others love you too, Jim Cooper. Your memory will keep all of our cups full and our smiles whole.
In lieu of flowers, donations to Lee Manor, Owen Sound, or the Owen Sound Legion would be appreciated by the Cooper family.