Robert Hayward Cooper

December 3, 1915 to April 10, 2017

Robert H. Cooper, of Temecula, California, died peacefully Monday, April 10, 2017 at the Veterans Home of California, Chula Vista. He was one-hundred-and-one years old.

“Bob Cooper” was born in Anna, Illinois, to Mr. Purley Pierce Cooper, of Golconda, Illinois, and Miss Jenny Pearl Hock, of Anna. He was called “Hayward” by his family back then, but preferred to be called “Bob” by his friends and peers. His siblings (all deceased) were Miriam Cooper (White), Johnny Cooper, Sarah Cooper(Pope), and Mr. Jackie B. Cooper.

“Uncle Bob” is survived by his nieces, Ms. Denise Pope and Ms. Sharon Cooper, and nephews, Terry White, Ridgeway Pope, Ron Cooper, Richard White, Aaron Cooper, and James White Jr. In addition, he is mourned by his loyal “stepdaughters” Ms. Barrie Abbott and Ms. Caroline Abbott.

Graduating from Murphysboro Township High School, Murphysboro, Illinois, in 1933, Bob later matriculated at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois, and studied electrical engineering for a period of two or three years, but never graduated.

In December 1943, Bob enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force, and because, in his words, he was “a lousy pilot”, but “good at math”, he was trained at Peterson Field, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to be an aircraft Navigator. After he won his wings and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, he was assigned to the 714th Squadron, 20th Wing, 448th Bombardment Group, 2nd Division, 8th Air Force, flying B-24 Liberators over Germany out of Seething, Staffordshire, England. From early 1944 to late 1945, he flew thirty combat missions, twenty of them as Navigator on the lead aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the European Theatre campaign ribbon, with three bronze battle stars for his war service.

After separation from service at the war’s end, he moved to Webster, Missouri, with his wife, Wilma, and worked for an electrical supply company, until re-enlisting in the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1950. This was during the Cold War, and Bob was then a Navigator on gigantic B-36 Peacemaker bombers, with six “pusher” propeller engines and four jet engines at the wingtips (“six turning and four burning”). It was designed to drop the massive atomic bombs of the day. His mission usually consisted of testing domestic defenses by practicing simulated bombing runs on American cities. He retired from the service in 1957 as a Captain.

Bob was married to Wilma Love, of Murphysboro, Illinois, for twenty-seven years, from 1943 until her death of multiple sclerosis, about 1970. In that time, Bob worked as an Electrical Engineer for Bendix Corporation to support them both and was her personal caregiver, undergoing great financial hardship and heartache. They had no children.

While in conference with his lawyer regarding his late wife’s estate, Bob met the lawyer’s assistant, Ms. Helen Gerow, (mother to Barrie and Caroline Abbott) which began a loving relationship until her death: in May of 2016, at the age of one-hundred-and-one. He was very disturbed by her passing, and began a rapid decline in his health thereafter. He was accepted at the Veterans Home of California, Chula Vista, in September, 2016, and was a resident there until the present.

Bob was a self-described “agnostic”, with no particular religion, but confessed to knowing that “there has to be something out there; I just don’t know what it is …” He was an intelligent and good man, of temperate morals and solid character. We will always remember him – a hero for his service to this country, and an inspiration to his nieces and nephews. We hope and pray he has met what is “out there” and found eternal joy. Rest in Peace, Uncle Bob! You are loved.

-Richard White


  • Date: April 28, 2017
  • Time: 10:30am
  • Location: Miramar National Cemetery
  • Address: 5795 Nobel Drive San Diego, CA 92122
  • Directions: Miramar National Cemetery