William Thomas Cooper, of Charleston, born June 25, 1929, entered into eternal rest on Friday, October 30, 2020. The oldest of four children of Sally Pauline and Thomas B. Cooper, he was born in Conway, South Carolina. Bill made the decision to attend college at the Citadel which turned out to be an important decision that shaped his life. Bill was a member of the Junior Sword Drill and Summerall Guards, two elite drill units. He was graduated in 1950 with the rank of Batallion Commander, and his classmates voted him the winner of the John O. Wilson Ring, presented annually to the “finest, purest and most courteous member of the class.” But he would point out it was at the Citadel he met the love of his life, Gertrude Agnes Cannon “Trudie.”
Bill celebrated his twenty-first birthday with Trudie and her family at the Isle of Palms—this was a memorable event because it also marked the start of the Korean War. As a new Citadel graduate, Bill made the decision to join the Army Airborne Rangers. Later in life, when asked how he decided on the Airborne Rangers, he would answer modestly, “Well, I just thought joining a highly trained group like this was simply the best shot of making it out of Korea.” It was in the Airborne that Bill rode in a plane for the first time, it also happened to be his first jump as a paratrooper. During drills one day, Bill was observed by Brigadier General Sweany and asked to travel with him to Korea as a general’s aid. Bill served his time in Korea as a general’s aid and was eligible to return home, when a combat, artillery unit came under heavy fire and its commanding officer asked to be relieved. Bill requested to lead the artillery unit eventually earning him the rank of Captain at the age of 22.
Upon returning home from Korea, Bill went back to a Citadel football game. Waiting in line, he saw Trudie Cannon across the stadium entrance. As Trudie would describe the event, “We had been separated by his time in Korea, but at that moment when we saw each other across stadium entrance, we both knew we were to be together.” He married Trudie on September 5, 1953, in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
As newlyweds they fulfilled Bill’s military obligation in Oklahoma and then returned home to Charleston where Bill started a new career with his father-in-law Norman Cannon. The two would go on to establish Southeastern Galleries furniture store. Bill continued to work and oversee operations at Southeastern Galleries until March of this year. Bill was incredibly proud of the team of people he worked with at Southeastern Galleries. While his team included two children (Rick and Trudie) and two grandchildren (Randolph and William), he made all his employees feel like family. Bill’s family is deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and support expressed to Bill this past year by his work family.
Bill was also a leader in the community, active on numerous business, civic and charitable boards. In particular, Bill cherished his role as a founding board member to the Bank of South Carolina. Bill and Bank of South Carolina founder Hugh C. Lane’s friendship extended beyond the boardroom and the two talked regularly, including a recent call before Bill’s passing. Bill was involved with and was a strong advocate for Our Lady of Mercy Outreach which addresses poverty by providing education and basic needs to ultimately effect self-sufficiency and self-worth. As a passionate and skilled fisherman, he embraced and enjoyed his time serving on the Marine Resources Division of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Bill was married to the love of his life for 65 years. Together, they had six children, sixteen grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. As a parent, he had firm beliefs and expectations for his children that pared with deep rooted love and compassion. Bill never talked about his many successes or accomplishments, but as his children experienced their own success he would then share something relevant in his life that allowed you both to share the moment. His everyday steadiness, commonsense and sound judgment made him uncommon. He was a patient listener and always a source of insight and encouragement. A constant theme to his children was the importance of “duty”—simply put do every day that what is expected of you. But just as at the Citadel or in Korea, he led by example. While he provided countless examples, there was no better example of commitment than the constant care he provided to his dear wife during her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He started every day by feeding her breakfast and ended every day by feeding her dinner. Their story of commitment so struck the staff of Bishop Gadsden, that they featured a story about Bill and Trudie.
Bill’s surviving children are: Randolph William Cooper (Tamerlyne); Richard Thomas Cooper (Elisa); Norman Joseph Cooper (Dana); Trudie Cooper Krawcheck; William Cannon Cooper (Kathleen); John Ashley Cooper (Kristen); and 16 grandchildren: Sarah Louise (“Weezie”) Churchill Cooper; Randolph William Cooper, Jr.; Alexandria Nichole Cummings; Kaitlyn Leigh Horner (Robert); Michael Thomas Cooper (Emily); William Lindsey Cooper; Thomas Norton Cooper; Christopher Grant Cooper (JoAnna); James Elliott Cooper; Kathryn Elizabeth Cooper; Jack Lee Krawcheck; Anna Marie Cooper; Bodin Jerome Cooper; Agnes Grace Cooper; Caroline Trudie Cooper; and John Ashley Cooper, Jr.; and two great-grandchildren Daniel Thomas Cooper and Conrad Hudson Stack.
A private Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, attended by the immediate family only. The service will be live streamed at 1:00 PM Wednesday, November 4, 2020, at https://tinyurl.com/sjblive.
Posted in: James McAlister
Posted on: 2020-11-02
Link to original obituary: https://www.jamesamcalister.com/obituary/7198864