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Robert “Bob” Cooper

Mr. Cooper
Mr. Cooper

Robert L. “Bob” Cooper of Mendota passed away Nov. 28, 2019, in Pleasant View Lutheran Home, Ottawa.
Respected and beloved, the longtime Mendota High School principal and community volunteer was 81.
A Mass of Christian burial will be Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Holy Cross Church, Mendota with the Rev. Peter Pilon officiating. Burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery, Mendota.
Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Thursday in Merritt Funeral Home, Mendota.
Born September 25, 1938, in Viola, Illinois, he was the son of Ivan and Alice (Smith) Cooper.
He grew up there and attended Winola High School, participating in track, football and basketball. Strong and athletic, he was named one of the top five basketball players in western Illinois following his senior season. So began an inextricable, lifelong link to athletics and extracurricular activities.
He attended Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1960. There he participated in football, basketball, and his favorite sport, baseball, where he was regarded as the top catcher in the conference.
He began a career in education as a teacher at Paw Paw High School. He later taught at Abingdon High School, where he served as head football coach and sophomore boys basketball coach. He received an M.A. from Northeast Missouri State in 1965 and his specialist education hours from Western Illinois University.
Also that year — on Aug. 14, 1965 — he married Donna Trattner of La Salle.
His first role as an administrator occurred in Williamsfield, Illinois, where he spent two years as principal.
He came to Mendota High School in 1969, where he served as principal for 25 years until his retirement in 1994.
Mr. Cooper was always visible yet never more than a spectator in school activities and events. Strong and stoic, and always with arms folded, the soft-spoken giant oversaw a period of remarkable student achievement at MHS.
Mendota enjoyed great statewide success in academics, music and athletics, including individual and team victories in state mathematics and journalism contests. The school also enjoyed unprecedented state tournament success in volleyball, boys and girls basketball, football and track and field.
Upon his retirement, Mendota’s longtime gymnasium was renamed “Cooper Gym.” He received the Illinois Music Educator’s Association “Outstanding Administrator Award” during the 1993-94 school year.
He was grand marshal of the Mendota Sweet Corn Festival Parade in 2008. He received the Horace Hume Outstanding Service Award from Mendota Chamber Of Commerce in 1995.
In 1994, the North Central Illinois Conference renamed the sportsmanship award as the “Robert Cooper NCIC Sportsmanship Award,” presented to one member school annually. He was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.
In Mendota he was involved with the Elks Club, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, Mendota Golf Club, Mendota Hospital Volunteer Services, YMCA Executive Board, Mendota Museum and Historical Board and Meals on Wheels. He was a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church and the Board of Directors at Eureka Savings Bank and served as President of Mendota Little League Baseball where he also coached.
Bob was an avid St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. He also loved playing golf. He enjoyed attending his son’s and grandchildren’s activities. He also relished having a morning coffee with his many friends in town.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years Donna Cooper; sons Michael (Trish) Cooper and Mark (Sally) Cooper and grandchildren Anthony, Jonathan, Seth and Gabrielle all of Ottawa; sisters Carole Waller of San Jose, Illinois and Sue (Dan) Duffey of Milan, Illinois and brothers Bill Cooper of Augusta, Georgia and Jack (Genie) Cooper of New Windsor, Illinois.
He was preceded in death by his parents, older brother Richard Cooper and his brother-in-law Robert Waller.
Memorials may be directed to the Robert Cooper Scholarship Fund.
Online condolences may be shared at

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