“I love people,” she noted, “and I want to be around positive people.”
Those salad daysNancy wasn’t brought up in the lap of luxury, and that was all right with her. She was born during the Depression, on May 21, 1932, in Walters, the only child of John and Louise West.
Her family moved to Marlow when Nancy was 4 or 5, and although she has lived elsewhere, Outlaw country is definitely the place where she chooses to “hang her hat.”
Her father was “always a car salesman,” she recalled. After coming to Marlow, he was employed with West Motor Company, a Chevy dealership at Broadway and Main owned by his brother. And at one time, her mom worked for the S&H Green Stamps trading stamps company.
Nancy remembered that her mother made her “walk a narrow line” and taught her to respect her elders, and that both parents “wanted me to be friendly, above all things.”
And when she strayed from that narrow line or failed to meet expectations, she heard about it.
“I always said she (Mom) just wanted to keep me humble,” Nancy noted with a smile.
“My mom was a go-getter and cook,” she said. “I didn’t inherit any of that.”
She spent her childhood and youth in the days of five-cent hamburgers, five-and-dime stores, and small towns where people “took care of one another.”
“I grew up in the best of times,” she attested.
It wasn’t uncommon for her and her mother to walk wherever they needed to go in Marlow. But she didn’t really consider this, or really much of anything else, a hardship. Nancy had an inherent ability to accept whatever life had to offer with equanimity and grace. Her glass has always been at least half-full.
“We didn’t suffer,” she said.
She noted that she has worked all of her life, from her first job at 13 or 14 clerking at Armstrong’s five-and-ten and later at the local Rexall drug store, to her last job, a part-time position with Terry Brown’s insurance firm. She didn’t ultimately retire until the age of 78.
Nancy attended the local schools, graduating from Marlow High in 1950. Her catch-phrase for her class is “50 of us in ’50.”
One of her most treasured high school memories revolves around a decision she and one of her closest lifetime friends, Del Ruth (Pearce) Skaggs made to become cheerleaders their senior year. They were so inept at it that “people came to watch us rather than the football game,” she said. “We were green as a gourd; but we had more fun, laughing at one another, if nothing else.”
She finished this observation with a statement that is so Nancy: “Life has been good.”
Love, marriageHer senior year, Nancy became acquainted with a handsome young man named Jerry Cooper, and they began dating. After high school, she attended Central State College in Edmond for a year; and to help with expenses, she worked in the library on campus.
“Of all the places to put me,” was the way she saw it. Nancy is a talker who has never met a stranger, and libraries major on quiet.
In the meantime, Jerry enlisted in the Army. Before shipping out, he and his buddies visited her and her college friends. During his stint in Korea, he and Nancy corresponded by mail.
Returning to Marlow after her freshman year, Nancy worked for the Cameron Lumber Company. Jerry, meanwhile, returned to the states with an extensive amount of shrapnel in his body and convalesced at Brooks Army Hospital in San Antonio.
Then one day, he showed up at the lumberyard and told Nancy, “I’m ready to be caught.”
“That’s as near a proposal as I got,” she quipped. “I just died laughing.”
She also said yes.
They married on April 2, 1953, at Marlow’s First Baptist Church. Since Jerry was attending OU, they immediately headed to Norman. While they were in Rush Springs enroute, the tornado siren sounded, and they spent part of their wedding night in a storm cellar.
The newlyweds soon relocated to Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where they were to remain for the next 13 years. Jerry worked on the docks in the ship channel until hiring on with Shell Chemical, and Nancy got a job as secretary for a Baptist church.
Their first two children were born in Houston.
Wesley, or Wes, now lives in Blanchard and works for Sandridge Oil. He and his wife, the former Vicki (DeYong), have two children, Kayla Southard and J Cooper, and a grandson, Weston Southard.
Daughter D’Ann Cox and her husband Ed are Duncan residents. D’Ann teaches special education at Duncan High, and she and Ed have given Nancy two grandchildren, Jessica Rice and Ryan Cox, and a great-grandson, Avery Rice.
Her younger son, Jeff, was born in Lawton and now lives in Huntley, Illinois, where he is manager of Road Rangers Truck Stop. His daughter Hunter is a student in the Bray-Doyle schools.
“I have never known anyone that knew so many people,” Jeff commented recently about his mother. “Mom always helps people even when she is the one that needs the help. She has always given first and asked the Lord to provide, if needed, down the road.
“I have known a couple people in my 44 years that were true servants of God, but never knew until I was grown that I had one in my home,” he added. “Mom is truly a blessing, not only in my life, but also in the lives of people that she has come into contact with.”
After her kids were born, Nancy worked for a bank, then for the Simplex Time Recorder Company.
Then in 1966, the family returned to Marlow. Jerry went to work in the oil lab on base at Fort Sill, and Nancy hired on with Kirkpatrick’s Furniture and Appliance. This was followed by three years as office manager for Dr. Nate Grantham in Lawton and at the Comanche County Memorial Hospital Clinic here in Marlow.
Happiness times 50
Then around 1993, the Coopers purchased a service station/convenience store on South Broadway and called it “Coop’s.” They opened a café within the store, where grilled onion burgers and 25-cent all-day cups of coffee became their specialties.
“We had Duncan people tell us you could smell the grilled onions all the way to Duncan,” Nancy said.
For 4 ½ years, Coop’s was open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“Jerry enjoyed every minute of it,” she said.
Nancy’s mother was diagnosed with cancer during this time, and she needed to be able to provide transportation for her mom’s treatments. Her flexible schedule at Coop’s “was a godsend, really,” she observed.
The business’ operation demanded a lot of hard work, and Nancy processed the paperwork after hours.
But she and Jerry were more than business partners—they were life partners in it for the long haul.
“That’s the beauty of getting older together,” she attested.
In March 2003, Jerry was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He underwent surgery on March 28; and four months later, the marriage that had endured for 50 years came to an end when the disease claimed Nancy’s beloved Jerry.
In one sense, she’s been alone for 10 years now. But she doesn’t wallow in self-pity. To her, that’s a foreign emotion.
“It’s been good—as good as it can be by yourself,” she affirmed.
AfterglowNot long after Jerry’s death, Terry Brown hired Nancy to work part-time in his office, and “it made those first few years a lot easier,” she remembered.
In fact, she said she would go back to work even now if she were offered a job an 81-year-old could handle.
Nancy’s faith has been a sustaining force since childhood.
“The church has always been of great importance in my life,” she said, “and I feel God has taken good care of me since Jerry passed.” She grew up in the First Baptist Church and continues to worship there.
Favorite leisure activities include reading, working word puzzles, and watching TV, particularly older sitcoms, classic movies and musicals. She also enjoys keeping in touch with former schoolmates.
Then there’s her shih tzu, an apricot-and-white bundle of fur named Muffin, whom she regards as her “best daily friend.”
Nancy wrapped her personal history neatly in a nutshell with a few simple words: “I’ve enjoyed life to the fullest.”
She went on to say, “God has been good. My church and family have made my life so full.”