Alva “Al” Cooper, 99, passed away in his sleep the morning of July 1, 2021 at Sunrise Assisted Living in Sacramento, California. He was born on March 9, 1922 in Alexandria, South Dakota to Mary and Luman Cooper.
Due to a severe draught, which hit the area during the Great Depression, the family left South Dakota eventually settling in Burbank, California in 1936. While living in Burbank, Al was a member of the “1889 Tallyho” float, which won the Grand Sweepstakes at Pasadena Tournament of Roses in 1939. He then went on to graduate from Burbank High School as a member of the Class of 1940. Following graduation, he worked for the Lockheed aircraft factory in Burbank while attending Glendale Community College. After completing his studies at GCC, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps July 1942, earning his pilot wings and flying B24’s out of Italy during World War II. It was during this time that he and his crew were shot down over Vienna, Austria. The group was missing in action for several months. It was a point of pride for Al that not just he, but all of his crew made it back home safely without losing a single soul. For his bravery during the war, Al was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He left active duty March 1945, was discharged from the Army Reserves in 1960 with the rank of Captain.
After the war, Al joined the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in 1948 as a motorcycle Traffic Officer. It was during this time that he served as a member of Governor Earl Warren’s security detail and as the Governor’s personal driver. Al had the honor of being the man who answered the phone when President Eisenhower called to ask Governor Warren to be the next Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Al heard Governor Warren say “Thank you, Mr. President. I will accept the position.”
Al continued to rise through the ranks of the CHP retiring in 1978 as Deputy Commissioner. Not one to be idle, and forever civic minded, he moved on to his next career as an advocate in the California State Legislature. He worked with organizations such as the California Peace Officers’ Association, California Police Chiefs’ Association, and the California State Sheriffs’ Association. He retired from his role with the Sheriffs’ Association in 1998 but continued to represent the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department until January of 2013 when he finally retired just before his 92nd birthday.
Al was preceded in death by his beloved son, Robert, and is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Barbara Buchholz Cooper (whom he met on a blind date), daughter Jill Cooper Coulter and her husband Joseph “Pepper” Coulter, granddaughter Kaitlin Coulter, and great-grandson Collin Coulter-Brown.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: Seasons Hospice Foundation, 2295 Gateway Oaks Drive, Suite 165, Sacramento, California 95833
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Seasons Hospice Foundation
2295 Gateway Oaks Drive, Sacramento CA 95833