The following are Jeff's obituaries and eulogies from his memorial service on May 10, 2007.
The following eulogy was delivered by Bill O'Connor at Colonel Cooper's memorial on May 10, 2007, the the NRA Whittington Center. I hope that you enjoy it as much as those of us in attendance did.
Colonel Cooper believed one could never have too many books, too much wine or too much ammo. After a certain age, I might add, too many pairs of cheap reading glasses.
I’m not sure the Colonel would approve of me reading this. He believed that declamations should be made from memory. But when your issued equipment is prone to stoppages and failures to feed, it is good to have to a backup.
Jeff Cooper was… an amateur. You can put down the pistols; it’s not an insult. The word amateur comes from the Latin amo, amare, to love. And Jeff Cooper loved what he did, and he did it for love, not money. It’s true, Colonel Jeff Cooper was a professional and an expert, but he built Gunsite because he was an amateur. That does not mean incompetent. Let’s not forget that an amateur built the Ark; professionals built the Titanic.
Thirty-five years ago, Paulden AZ was not the bustling, megalopolis it is today, on the great trade route from Chino Valley to Cottonwood. A purely professional man who cared only for hard-headed financial analysis – would not have poured his money into the high desert sand. But the heart understands what the mind can’t fathom. And so the Coopers moved from California, and built Gunsite, out of faith and dreams and love.
I have spent many years in the east, what Paul Kirchner called the belly of the bunny. People have asked me what Gunsite is. Is it a shooting school? Well, yes. You mean like target shooting? Well, no, not exactly. It’s a gun fighting school. You mean like with real guns? Uh-huh. Is it legal? So far. You mean ordinary people can go there? That’s the idea.
You see, "ordinary people" is really a slang term for citizen. And to Jeff Cooper, citizen, like amateur, is not a term of disrespect. Our republic is meant to be self-governing. That is, it‘s meant to be governed by amateurs. And guarded by amateurs, too.
Sometimes, to give a better idea of what Gunsite is about, I’d tell the story of a guy who died and goes to heaven.
The line outside the Pearly Gates was long and barely moving.
Our guy noticed a sign with an arrow which read, "Express Entrance. Righteous Warriors Only." So he followed the arrow to an archway. And through the arch he saw campfires. And the air was filled with laughter and singing and the aroma of roasting meat.
So he stepped through the gate and toward the glow of the campfires. Suddenly, the laughter ceased. And all eyes bore down on him.
A giant with an enormous sword and flaming red hair, confronted him. "And who is this?"
A quavering voice replied. "My name is Albee Morton."
"Ay, Albee Morton, are ye a mighty fighter?"
"Uh.. No. I’m An accountant."
"Well, Albee Morton, accountant, this entrance is for warriors only. Ye cannot enter here if ye know nothing of combat."
"Well, I was in really nasty a fight once."
"Ah, a nasty fight. Tell us about it."
"Well, I was stopped at a light in my fully restored AMC Gremlin, when this girl came running across the street, screaming for help. And her dress was all torn and she was bleeding and crying for help, And this vicious gang was chasing her. And they were big and ugly and dirty and had skulls tattooed on their faces.
And their leader pulled out a huge knife and said, "Give us the girl." So I said, "You leave her alone. If you want her you’ll have to go through me!"
"Well, Albee Morton. That suggests ye’ve got some sand in your craw and steel in your spine. But we’ll have to check your story. When did ye say this happened?"
"Oh… about two and a half minutes ago."
I’m not sure the Colonel would have laughed at that story. In fact, it might have enraged him. He did not find stories about helpless men anything to laugh at. But he would have approved of a man with the guts to take on a gang of thugs to protect a woman under attack. And he would have welcomed Albee Morton to Gunsite, and led him down to the Gunsmithy for a more appropriate tool.
Even the most timid person recognizes the virtue and valor in Albee’s last stand. And all would want someone to come to the aid of their daughters in such a situation. But how many of them would condemn poor Albee Morton to fight with inadequate tools?
Now, as the Colonel always said, some situations are unsurvivable, and Albee Morton still might not have made it out alive – even with an E ticket in 250. But at least he’d have a shot. And he might rid the world of a few goblins on his way out.
There were many professionals who came to Gunsite for training. But there were lot of Albee Mortons, too – utter amateurs, who came on their own time and their own dime, because they were moved by Colonel Cooper’s words and ideas.
I remember one woman in my 250 class. She came because her husband was taking the course and she wanted to please him. The first pistol she ever fired was the .45 caliber Gunsite Service Pistol she picked up from the Gunsmithy the first day of class. She was afraid she’d hold up the class, and that if they wanted her to drop out, she would understand. But that’s not the Gunsite way.
She listened to the Mindset lecture. She practiced the presentation. She focused on the front sight, and pressed the trigger until the surprise break. And by Wednesday, there was no question in anyone’s mind, especially hers, about holding the class back.
It’s been many years and I forget her name. But I remember her clearly, standing on the square range in a long, blue denim jumper, looking like a gentle kindergarten teacher… with a big Colt .45 on her hip.
And because she dared to come to Gunsite to learn Jeff Cooper’s teachings, the sheep was no longer easy prey for wolves. In fact, she was no longer a sheep. She was a sheepdog. Jeff Cooper turned out a lot of sheepdogs.
In all the courses I took at Gunsite, I never once won a shoot off. Not once. Ever. I did the math, and concluded that I should avoid gunfights whenever possible. But it’s an uncertain world, even for amateurs. And sometimes the lover must become a fighter. It was Colonel Cooper’s mission to help them do just that. To those who find the Colonel’s views extreme, I ask, How many Albee Mortons are alive because they listened to Jeff Cooper? How many lives has Jeff Cooper saved?
When you went to Gunsite, you were not just a customer or a graduate. You became part of the Gunsite family. And the Coopers have always been very hospitable to family.
The Good Lord made man and woman incomplete halves, and Janelle was the gentle half that made Jeff whole. But make no mistake she was as strong as he was, and as much as I admired and respected the Colonel, I doubt he could have accomplished what he did without his Janelle.
Now, the past is a different country, and often the Colonel preferred the way they did things there. But he didn’t scorn something simply because it was new. In fact, the Colonel was quite an innovator. Witness the Modern Technique of the Pistol, Practical shooting and the Scout Rifle. But like G.K. Chesterton, he had no patience for the modernist who insists that Thursday is better than Tuesday simply because it’s Thursday.
That is why he had no patience with political correctness. The term itself is creepy. It’s the denial of critical thinking and conscience. It’s Orwell’s newspeak. Repeat the unacceptable until it becomes the assumed. Everything is relative. The truth is what we say it is. It takes a village. Women are men. Men are women. People are human resources. She’s pregnant, but it’s not a baby. The 2nd Amendment means the National Guard. It’s a collective right. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege. It only covers muskets. It’s not a sporting firearm. It’s the weapon of choice. It’s a living document. Up is down, day is night. God is dead. And 2007 AD, Anno Domini suddenly becomes 2007 CE, Common Era. Common to what? Shhh. Don’t answer. It’s not PC and it’s inappropriate in our common era.
Jeff Cooper had no interest in living in a common era. Why, he asked, should we celebrate the common when we should aspire to the extraordinary?
The Colonel loved learning and he loved history. He knew that Aristotle and Augustine and Aquinas have as much to say to us today as they did to their contemporaries. We don’t need a Ph.D. to listen. A library card will do. We choose. We can fix our course by the stars that have shone through the centuries, or we can steer by the flickering lights of the latest wandering barque to float across the horizon. Jeff Cooper found no merit in following the lost.
The Colonel knew that when we ignore the wisdom of the ages, we are doomed to the foolishness of the ages. When we lower our standards, we inevitably follow them down. When we let things slide, we leave no slippery slope unslid. When we put down courage, we pick up cowardice. As the great C.S. Lewis observed, "Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point." And he lamented, "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful." In short, we cease teaching our young to ride, to shoot straight and to speak the truth.
Jeff Cooper never stopped teaching those things. He was, above all, I think, a teacher. St. Augustine believed two things were absolutely necessary for a great teacher. He had to love his subject, and he had to love his students. Jeff Cooper did both. He wanted the best for his students, and he’d prod and poke, command and cajole, growl and roar to get us to think and to learn. And his students loved him for it.
The Colonel had the ability to simplify the complex and make it absorbable. He shaved his doctrine with Ockham’s razor Make nothing more complicated than it needs to be. Keep it simple, but no more simple than it can be. Take his Principles of Personal Defense. Take his Four Rules
All guns are always loaded
Never point the muzzle at anything you don’t want to destroy
Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target and you’re ready to fire, [and]
Know your target and what’s behind it.
Simple. Very few moving parts. Everything that’s needed, nothing that’s not. Jeff Cooper never would have come up with Microsoft Word.
Plato believed the purpose of education was to turn the student toward higher things. So did Jeff Cooper. He did not develop the Gunsite curriculum to enable students to shoot higher scores in IPSC matches, although his training might very well result in higher IPSC scores. The main thing was to keep the main thing, the main thing. His purpose was to teach good people to react properly when attacked. To turn cold fear into icy rage. To do what the craven, the collectivist and the criminal fear. To fight back.
The Colonel loved liberty. And he fought for it fiercely with his pen. In his dozen books, in his Guns and Ammo column, in his correspondence. Talk about firepower! The two volumes of the Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip alone filled 1,850 pages! That’s more writing than many Americans have ever read. And think not just of its volume, but its depth and breadth. Read the Survivor, The Crossing, and the Barn. For the Colonel, there was so much to appreciate! And he did. He realized that all this world, all this life is a gift. And he took in as much as he could; he studied it, he savored it, and he was grateful.
I suppose the Colonel might not appreciate my indulging the Irish appetite for the maudlin. We came here to celebrate a his life, not mourn his death. Yet life and death are intertwined and inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.
I have an uncle, a favorite uncle. He’s a 91 year old Capuchin Franciscan monk who is receiving hospice care from a fine African fellow named Yosef, who lives in a small room next to his in the monastery. And Yosef never says, "Father is dying." He says, "Father is traveling." And so he is. And so is the colonel is traveling. This was only temporary duty. We’re all TDY here.
I’d like to read a brief paragraph written by Barbara Karnes, a registered nurse who specializes in hospice care. She sees death every day, and has a special insight into its mystery.
"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says "There, she is gone!"
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spj½ ar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout "Here she comes!"
And that is dying.
Yet, Jeff Cooper is still here. He left a little piece of himself in each one of us. And he left a list of things for us to do. Strike a blow for liberty every day. No matter how small. Never get discouraged. Never give up. Never. Never. Never.
It’s a daunting task. But the Colonel believed we’re up to it. After all, we’re amateurs.
The following eulogy was delivered by COL Clint Ancker, USA (Ret) Colonel Cooper's memorial on May 10, 2007, the the NRA Whittington Center.
How many of you in the audience today are carrying 1911s? Why do you think that is?
I’d like to thank the United States Marines that are here today. All Marines are warriors, and for those who think that American youth are soft, you need only look at these great Marines to know that our young men and women still have it.
First, I want to thank Janelle and Lindy for the kind invitation to speak at this memorial. I’m honored to do so.
I met Janelle the same day I met Jeff, in June of 1979 at API 250. That was the start of a wonderful friendship with both Jeff and Janelle and has lead me to many interesting adventures, discussions, and a long correspondence with Jeff.
Before I really start to talk about Jeff, I want to acknowledge Janelle specifically, for she was as much a part of that wonderful team as Jeff was. I doubt seriously Jeff would have been as successful and influential as he was without Janelle’s love and assistance. I can think of no couple I’ve ever met that were so perfectly matched as were Jeff and Janelle. The closest comparable pair I can think of in history was Winston and Clementine Churchill. Janelle, thank you for all you’ve and contributed to this great life.
One of the previous speakers mentioned that he never knew quite what to call Jeff when talking to him. I never had that problem, to me he was always “Colonel”.
One of the greatest benefits of knowing Jeff was the people you met. Because when you ran in the Jeff’s circle, you met an endless number of fascinating, interesting, and just plain good people. Without Jeff I’d have missed out on some of the best, most interesting, and certainly most entertaining, friends I have. This includes intellectuals, adventurers, warriors, and yes, some real characters.
I’d have missed the entire API email list, which provides a constant source of amazing information and the ability to get first hand details on almost any subject you can think of.
I’d have missed the entire Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Crew, to include John Schaefer, Alvin Hammer, Duane and Doyle Huffstedter, Dave and Ruthann Morningstar, Don and Carolyn Davis, Cas Gadomski and a whole host of others.
And I’d have missed knowing many other people that are here today, including
Dr. Werner Wisenhoffer
Marc and Susan Heim
And of course, Team Kansas
And many, many others too numerous to mention
So how does one man accumulate such a devoted following and such an eclectic group of people? What made Jeff unique?
Well, for starters, Jeff would probably take me to task for using the term unique, since we are all unique and Jeff was a stickler for correct language. But what made Jeff stand apart from all but a very few men in his time? Certainly, few have lived life as fully as he did. Jeff enjoyed things, he sought out adventure, and he looked for the beautiful, useful, effective, and noble
There are a number of characterizations that describe part of who he was.
He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps, and that says a lot all by itself.
He was a dues paying member of the “Greatest Generation” who fought for liberty and our way of life.
He has been described as an epicurean – someone who believed that “the greatest good is to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear,” and I emphasize the freedom from fear, which he gave to countless people, he touched. I can think of few descriptions that come closer than this to what Jeff was about.
He’s also been described as a “Renaissance Man,” a pioneer, an innovator, a pistolero, a rifleman, a consummate teacher, an educator, a historian and a host of other titles too long to cover in detail. So how does one capture his character?
I can in no way present a complete picture of a man with so many facets, so I’m going to look at a handful of traits that stood out to me. Among many interests that Jeff and I had in common – and by the way, having lots of things in common with Jeff was not hard given the myriad of interests that he had – but one that we had in common was a fondness for good quotes. So I thought I’d use a few of my favorites as lead ins to cover just some of the things I think made Jeff the person that has drawn such an eclectic group of people together to celebrate his life.
One of the quotes from Jeff’s own compilation, Quoth the Raven, is this one from Lucius Cornelius Sulla: “No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full.”
I can say from personal experience that Jeff lived up to the first part of this in grand style. “No friend ever served me whom I have not repaid in full…” Jeff’s generosity to his friends was immense and unending. I fondly remember a grand gathering of many of Jeff’s European acquaintances in Viandan, Luxembourg in the 1980s that was truly a magnificent affair, and at which I met many, many fascinating people, some of whom remain friends to this day. It was typical of Jeff that he and Janelle would throw such a grand event and host it in such grand style, just to say thank you to those who had extended courtesies to him.
Jeff also put together several great African adventures for his friends and treated them to the adventure of a lifetime--several people here today were recipients of that generosity. But in everyday life Jeff and Janelle opened their house to friends on a regular basis, hosting classes in the Sconce. One always knew that once one was a member of the Gunsite Family, there was always a welcome mat out at the Coopers. It also showed in little things, such as the Gunsite hat I was presented on my second trip to Gunsite when Janelle found out I had been promoted to major. By noon of the first day, they had somehow managed to find some braid and make a field grade hat for me. It showed in the beautiful cartridge that Jeff sent me after my first trip to Africa. Jeff had policed up the first cartridge I fired at African game, and with Lindy’s help, had it plated and inscribed and had a small ruby put in the primer pocket.
Now there’s a second part to that quote about “no enemy ever wronged me” but I have no knowledge of that side of the equation, thank heavens.
Another of the people Jeff quoted in Quoth the Raven was Eric Hoffer. Hoffer, like Jeff, was a gifted observer of the human condition whose writings provide a clarity of insight into that condition that few can match. One of my favorite quotes from Hoffer is this: “Ideals are a dime a dozen, its ideas that are rare.”
There’s a great deal of truth in this statement. Today, too many confuse ideals based on wishful thinking with ideas that can be implemented. However, ideals, by themselves are not bad.
Jeff was one of those uncommon men who had both, ideals and ideas, in significant numbers. He had ideals of truth, beauty, patriotism, duty, responsibility, rights, friendship, family, education, and competence. He published his ideals in terms of what a person should be capable of, what a good education consisted of, what the duties and responsibilities a citizen of a free country consisted of, and what was owed to country, friends and family.
But, unlike many today, his ideals were not born of a fantasy desire of what man should be in an ideal world, but rather ideals based on a realistic evaluation of what man is truly capable of. This evaluation came from many sources but certainly included his wide travels, his observations of men and women of many different cultures in many different situations, to include personal experience of combat. It was born of a lifelong love of and study of history – not just the history of the West, but also a study of the history of cultures both current and ancient. It was also based on having interacted with and trained thousands of men and women in the use of firearms for both self defense and for hunting. Jeff’s ideals were time tested, proven over centuries, by countless civilizations, and reflected a true understanding of the capabilities and limitations of man (Jeff, please note the use of the masculine singular as the collective noun for all of us – not politically correct, but grammatically elegant and traditional).
But just as important, and for most of us, the thing that brought him to our attention was his ideas. Many men have ideas and many men write them down. But not all ideas are good and not all writing is good. More importantly, many men have ideas but fail to act on them and fail to realize their full potential. Jeff had that rare combination of truly good ideas, the ability and means to act on them, the ability to write about them in clear, persuasive terms, and the personality to get people to listen to him. This all adds up to the ability to effect change. And look at the change that he effected. The modern technique, the Scout, the popularity of the 1911, the color code, the four firearms safety rules, the provision of training for qualified civilians, and the entire genre of action sports in firearms, all descendants, direct or indirect, of Jeff’s ideas.
Lately, I’ve become even more aware of how great Jeff’s contributions were. His influence is all around us. I subscribe to a number of magazines that cater to shooters, and it’s rare to read a single issue that does not pay some homage to one or more of Jeff’s ideas. Here are just a few recent examples I’ve noticed in the last few months.
I’ve read various versions of the Federal Air Marshall drill that use the term double tap. That same term is used by one of my compatriots at Fort Leavenworth for anything that he does twice. When phrases like that pass into common acceptance by people who haven’t a clue where they came from, you’ve really arrived.
Last week I was reading USA Today and the front page article carried with it a picture of a patrol in Ramadi, Iraq. The three soldiers in the picture, to include a full colonel brigade commander, were all equipped with rifles and all three had their fingers straight and off the trigger. (1 May). And we all know how hard it is to get colonels to pay attention. A few months ago, I visited Fort Sam Houston, the training ground for our Army medics. As part of a recent emphasis on small arms all trainees are issued weapons early on in their training and carry them almost everywhere. And they almost all carried them with their fingers straight. “Finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target” is yet another element of the art of firearms training that Jeff pioneered and popularized. He may not have invented it, but its widespread use is certainly due to his efforts.
During that same visit to Fort Sam, I observed some of the most realistic training you can conduct without actually getting shot at. And yet a common phrase among the drill instructors in the middle of simulated night combat was “Watch your muzzle.” The Firearms safety rules Jeff championed are almost universal (if not actually followed) – I have seen them posted, taught, and reinforced from the jungles of the Philippines to firearms manufacturers, to most teachers worth their salt today.
Today, anyone who wants to stake out a claim of improving the state of the art in the defensive use of handguns, or any of the other many, many areas that Jeff popularized, must first explain why this approach is better than what Jeff pioneered. Precious few have made any substantial improvements. Most of the improvements are extensions of what Jeff originated.
Jeff’s use of the Color Code, again, not something that he invented, but something that he propagated throughout the community, has become almost universal. There’s a whole cottage industry built around trying to “refine” the color code and yet the original is still sound and more than adequate to the task at hand.
And the list goes on. The scout rifle has now become a generic term for any rifle with a forward mounted scope. I note that Hornaday is touting the 450 Bushmaster as the answer to Jeff’s concept of a “Thumper.”
Just as important, there are always second and third order effects of important actions and ideas, and I think you can make a serious case that much of legislation in the United States today allowing legal concealed carry is an indirect result of Jeff’s legitimizing serious training in self defense for civilians, his advocacy of the rights of armed citizens, and the growth of sports that promote the safe and effective use of firearms for self defense. The proliferation of manufactures of the 1911 and the huge aftermarket of parts and modifications, can all be traced back to Jeff’s influence.
So, if Jeff’s ideas have had this kind of pervasive influence, if his ideas are so widely accepted now, why is that? Simply, he saw possibilities where no others did.
Genius comes in two forms. The first is in truly seeing something that no one else could even conceive of or produce – Einstein and relativity, Shakespeare and his plays, DaVinci’s works, or the collective genius that created our great Constitution. This kind of creative thought is rare.
But so is the other form of genius. This form is seeing things that exist, but putting them together in a combination that no one else has yet perceived and achieving a truly synergistic expansion of capability. Napoleon didn’t invent much of anything, but he saw the possibilities of bringing together combined arms in formations, the nation in arms, marches made possible by tinned food, promotion by merit rather than birth, and a host of other innovations to completely alter warfare for ages.
And Jeff did something similar. He saw the combination of the Weaver Stance, the presentation, the flash sight picture, the compressed surprise break and the heavy duty pistol, and created the modern technique, combined with the color code and the principles of personal defense, they revolutionized self defense for citizens in the US and in many other places in the world. He saw the value of free form competition in improving the state of the art. And he saw the need for training and education on the use of firearms for defensive purposes, training and education not just for police and the military, but for law abiding citizens.
Note, I said training and education, because the flagship course at The American Pistol Institute, API 250, not only trained people in the modern technique of the pistol, but it educated them in the color code, the principles of self defense, and provided a clear foundation for an outlook on life that stressed self discipline, taking responsibility for your own life and safety, and that of those around you, a reverence for your country and what it stood for, and an appreciation of the beauty, competence, joys, and often courage that surround you, if you only look for them and seek them out.
This education became, for many, if not most of us, the start of a long and profitable association because attending API meant you were “family”; you received thought provoking periodical notes from Jeff in the form the Gunsite Gossip, and for those who cared to, you now had one of the best, most insightful, and most dependable correspondents imaginable. I don’t believe I ever sent Jeff a letter than I didn’t get a response back in a matter of days. Part of this was because, unlike some, he loved to share his knowledge. He delighted in pointing out good books, good stories, great adventures, good foods, and many other things. He never hoarded knowledge as some do.
One of the notable features of Jeff’s writing and conversations was his distinct lack of “political correctness.” Herbert Spencer once said that “The profoundest of all infidelities is the fear that the truth will be bad.” Jeff said that Thomas Sowell, of the Hoover Institute, was probably the smartest man writing in the United States today. I believe that what Jeff appreciated about Sowell, is the same thing that was central to Jeff’s views on the world. And that is a profound, deep seated, almost fanatical respect for the truth, regardless of who it might offend. Both men have been called blunt and politically incorrect. Jeff reveled in such labels. Jeff saw no reason to avoid unpopular truths, just because someone might be offended by them, or in Sowell’s vocabulary, have their vision of mankind disturbed by uncomfortable facts. At a time when all too many of our “”Leaders,” and I put that term in quotes, will do anything to avoid offense, even at the cost of the truth, Jeff never shied away from controversy.
Was he opinionated? Well yes, but when Jeff took a position it was because he’d thought about it, researched it, evaluated it from first principles, and decided what was right I don’t think he ever passed out wisdom that he had not come to from serious study, whether of firearms, self defense, or the many other areas that he held forth on.
I’d like now to read from a poem that I wrote about Jeff that actually started before he died, and was intended as a tribute to him at the Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial last year. It was simply entitled ODE, and spoke of how I came to appreciate what Jeff meant to me, and I hope to others. The last few verses summed up what I thought Jeff was all about….
It was love of our country, its freedoms and history
Of patriotism and service done freely
It was love of adventure, one’s courage to test
And appreciating things that were done by the best
It was searching for truths, regardless of source
That politically correct for him held no force
That right was not relative, but a thing absolute
And when duty called, you would simply salute
And ride off to battle, if the cause it was just
And when confronted by fears, simply do what one must
To be faithful to friends and to family be true
To repay every kindness and give what was due
I had found a great teacher, and man of great wisdom
Who experienced life and the joys that would come
From a life that was virtuous, exciting and filled
With knowledge, and beauty and unconquerable will
A friend who repaid every kindness ten fold
A man who shared stories, whose thoughts were pure gold
To those only shooters, it was Jeff Cooper they knew
But to those who dug deeper, he was simply The Guru.
I’ll close with one last quote. This one is from General George Patton, one that I’ve used on more than one occasion. But one that is absolutely appropriate to this gathering.
“It is wrong to mourn that such men have died, rather we should thank God that such men have lived.”
I can think of no more fitting way to end this tribute. We are all fortunate for having known and learned from Jeff Cooper.
Colonel, God Bless. I know that the discussions in heaven are livelier, more learned, and more interesting now that you are there. And you left behind a lot of friends that will attempt to keep the flame alive.
“We few, we happy few, We band of brothers”
We in this room today are a band of brothers and we owe it to Jeff to keep the flame alive.
goes there? Americans!
that have molded to hilt of sword and pistol;
With apologies to Grace Duffie
LA Times Obituary
Jeff Cooper, 86; Firearms Expert Set Standard for Pistol Technique
By Dennis McLellan, LA Times Staff Writer
October 1, 2006
Jeff Cooper, a firearms expert who formulated the widely used "modern technique of the pistol" and founded a highly regarded firearms training center in Arizona, has died. He was 86.
Cooper, an author and longtime Guns & Ammo magazine columnist who had experienced health problems in recent years, died Monday at his home near the training center on Gunsite Ranch, his family said.
A big-game hunter and retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, Cooper founded what was originally called the American Pistol Institute on Gunsite Ranch in the Sonora Desert just west of Paulden, Ariz., in 1976.
The training center expanded from teaching pistol techniques to covering military carbines, shotguns, submachine guns, hunting rifles and various other small arms. Now called Gunsite Academy, it boasts an estimated 40,000 graduates, including law enforcement officers, military personnel from around the world and civilians.
Cooper, who wrote several books on firearms and was one of the original writers for Guns & Ammo, sold the training center in 1992 but continued to live on the property.
"He's an icon in the field," Gunsite Academy owner Owen Mills said. "Probably, in the use of small arms, he is on par with John Browning, the inventor of modern American semiautomatic pistols."
Cooper, Mills said, "codified the use and deployment of small arms for personal defense."
Cooper's modern technique of the pistol grew out of his involvement with two groups he organized in the mid-1950s, the Bear Valley Gunslingers and the Southwest Combat Pistol League, which held matches in the Big Bear area and other locations.
"Jeff's contribution to all this was that he was able to observe what other people were doing and see what worked," said Ed Head, operations manager at Gunsite. "His particular genius was to turn it into a particular teaching methodology."
The modern technique of the pistol, which was later branched out to other small arms, features five elements, including the Weaver stance, named for Jack Weaver, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who used two hands to grip the pistol, which created isometric tension to steady it, and used the gun sight.
"Before that, everybody had been hip-shooting — shooting with one hand, without th sights," said Head. "It made a big difference."
The modern technique "has been widely accepted by all the law enforcement agencies in the world," including the Los Angeles Police Department, Mills said. "The man's probably responsible for keeping more soldiers and law enforcement officers alive than anyone in the world."
He added that Cooper's codification of firearm safety rules is "universally accepted."
Cooper, said Wiley Clapp, former handgun editor for Guns & Ammo, "has been referred to as the father of modern handgunning — accurately, I think. He is the guy who develope technique of using a handgun defensively, the technique that is almost universal in both police and military circles and civilian circles.
"If you go to the movies and see Tom Cruise fighting his way through the bad guys â€¦ in the way they hold the pistol, the way they fire multiple shots, all of that is a somewhat Hollywood-ized version of the modern technique. The position they're generally in is a Weaver.
"So this thing that one ultra-conservative, right-wing retired colonel started in the mountains of Big Bear is so permeated in our culture that they're using it in the movies and so forth."
John Dean "Jeff" Cooper was born in Los Angeles on May 20, 1920. As a Marine during World War II, he served on the battleship Pennsylvania and later conducted what he described as "clandestine services" during the Korean War.
Cooper, who was discharged from the Marines in 1955, earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Stanford University and a master's degree in history from UC Riverside. From the late 1950s through the early '70s, he taught history part time through a community college and at the high school in Big Bear.
His books include "Cooper on Handguns," "The Art of the Rifle," "To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth," "Sports Car Annual," two volumes of "Gunsite Gossip," "Fireworks" (a collection of essays) and the memoirs "Another Country" and "C Stories."
After Mills bought the center from another owner in 1999, Cooper returned to teach master's classes, quitting for health reasons in 2003.
His column continued to appear in Guns & Ammo, however, and he also continued to meet with Gunsite students who would visit after classes on Friday afternoons.
He'd greet them in his spacious, high-ceilinged living room, whose walls are adorned with game heads, swords and other military artifacts. Then he'd take them to his downstairs armory, where he'd hold forth on guns, politics and other topics.
Cooper, who served as the first president of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, also served on the National Rifle Assn. board of directors. In 1995, he received the Outstanding American Handgunner Award.
Cooper is survived by his wife of 64 years, Janelle; three daughters, Christy Hastings, Parry Heath and Lindy Wisdom; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
The Prescott DAILY COURIERSunday, October 01, 2006
USMC Lt. Colonel John Dean "Jeff" Cooper
USMC Lt. Colonel John Dean "Jeff" Cooper died Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, at the age of 86, surrounded by his loving family at "The Sconce," his home in Paulden, Arizona.
Born May 10, 1920, in Los Angeles, Calif., Cooper earned his B.A. from Stan-ford University and a Master's Degree in History from the University of California.
He served with the U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theatre in World War II, and thereafter in Korea and Southeast Asia.
Col. Cooper was an avid outdoorsman and hunter, collecting big game on many continents, most notably his beloved Africa. He was a highly-regarded writer on hunting and shooting, as well as philosophy and government even automobile racing.
Determined to discover what skills allow some to prevail in armed encounters, Col. Cooper founded a series of pistol matches in Big Bear Lake, Calif. These were the first organized "combat matches" ever conceived. Col. Cooper carefully observed and codified what worked in these matches, and out of these observations he built the tenets of what would become the Modern Technique of the Pistol, a system and methodology that has saved the lives of thousands of serving law enforcement personnel, military operatives and private citizens.
Col. Cooper went on to found the International Practical Shooting Confederation, an organization devoted to the continued development of the combat shooting discipline. Today, that organization is worldwide, hosting thousands of matches each year. Only a very few can say that they have begun an international movement, but Col. Cooper did so.
In 1976, Col. Cooper and his wife Janelle founded the American Pistol Institute, or "Gunsite" as it came to be known, in Paulden, Arizona. Cooper expanded the curriculum beyond its original concentration on the pistol to embrace nearly all smallarms. Thus, the student could (once he had attained his or her basic qualification) branch out to the shotgun, the hunting rifle, the carbine and nearly any other smallarms system. Most of today's firearms trainers have studied at Gunsite.
Today, Gunsite still provides the Colonel's doctrine, and serves as the most well-known of firearms training schools in the world. It is open to all of good character, as the Colonel originally specified.
Col. Cooper believed the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was a "living, breathing" document, meant to be interpreted exactly as it was written a document intended to keep free people free. Cooper maintained that the Second Amendment was America's first and most important freedom and he served until the time of his death on the Board of Directors of the NRA to see that that freedom survives for our children.
Cooper was a prodigious writer who published many books and hundreds of articles, many in Guns and Ammo Magazine, where he long had a monthly column called "Cooper's Corner."
A natural linguist, Col. Cooper attracted friends and colleagues from all around the world. His many hunting trips to Africa and his travels to Europe and elsewhere ensured a steady dialogue with people of many cultures. Indeed, "Pik Jeff Cooper," a mountain in the Tien Shan Range, is named for him.
Colonel Cooper was a man whose like is seldom seen in a generation, or in a century. He personified the concept of manly virtue as the Greeks applauded it two thousand years ago. His writings and teachings ranged wide across the enterprises of men, and we will not often see one like him again. In an age of mediocrity, he refused to accept anything but excellence in himself and those around him.
He felt that happiness was not a goal in itself, but the by-product of achievement; that of all the worldly pleasures, only learning itself had no surfeit.
Therefore, an invitation to his table or hearth was an exercise of the guest's dialectic abilities a challenge in itself, and no small honor.
Col. Cooper is survived by Janelle, his loving wife and confidante of 64 years; three daughters, Christy, Mrs. Chick Hastings of Prescott, Ariz.; Parry, Mrs. Bruce Heath of Denver, Colo.; and Lindy, Mrs. Joe Wisdom of Tempe, Ariz.; as well as five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for May 10, 2007, at the NRA Whittington Center in New Mexico.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers that friends become Life Members of the National Rifle Association, or make contributions to the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund.
Interested parties may enquire of the NRA at 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030.
Arrangements have been entrusted to The Hampton Funeral Home of Prescott, Arizona.
Marksman, Teacher, Memory-maker
Special to the Prescott Daily Courier
Sunday, October 01, 2006
The death of world-renowned handgun expert Jeff Cooper this week brought back vivid memories of the American Pistol Institute and his handgun training class at Gunsite in Paulden.
Shortly after I graduated high school in 1975, my mom told me about a gun course she had completed. I didn't realize at the time that regular folks like mom couldn't just walk into Gunsite. Cooper designed it to hone the skills of police officers, sniper squads, military personnel and competition shooters. Mom had met his wife, the very gracious Janelle Cooper, who had helped her get into one of the first courses. As a successful Gunsite alumnus, she could vouch for me.
In the early years, Cooper required all students to shoot with a Colt Government Model .45. So I showed up at class with my shiny new Colt Commander .45, 500 rounds of ammo, and my Gunsite-savvy mother.
The first clue it wouldn't be an ordinary week of target shooting was the warning on the Gunsite gate. It instructed those who would visit to call first, or risk meeting the barrel end of a firearm on arrival.
Then I met Jeff Cooper. He appeared larger than life, like a combination of big game hunter and John Wayne. He moved and spoke with supreme confidence. When he barked orders at the firing range, everyone instantly obeyed. The most insistently delivered orders were his safety rules, and pointing your gun at someone inadvertently was the one blunder that would get you summarily thrown out. Those safety rules are still part of me 30 years later. We stepped up to the firing line, and on command, we shot. We didn't move again until we had holstered our weapons. Aside from the firing line, the reloading area was the only place our guns were ever out of the holster.
This formidable but personable man could sit down after class, though, and tell story after story of his military and shooting experiences. Because of him, to this day I sit in restaurants facing the door so I can see what, or who, is coming in!
During one unforgettable incident on the firing line, half the students would shoot, while the rest watched. My mother's group had stepped up to the line for an exercise in which shooters drew, fired twice, and re-holstered. Cooper gave the order, and shooters drew and fired once. Before anyone could fire again, his voice literally snapped through the air, and shooters froze. He then told Mom she needed to holster and go check her gun, because a bullet had jammed in the barrel. Sure enough, if she had fired again, she would have damaged her gun, and most likely herself.
Cooper said a lot of people can learn to hit a target, but how you respond under pressure is crucial. In a life-and-death situation, if you can't focus on the job at hand, you won't be alive to shoot any more paper targets.
Gunsite's "fun house," complete with Cooper an inch behind my right ear, barking, "You're dead!" honed certain brain paths forever. The fun house quickly exposed just how inept we were at keeping all the elements of effective self-defense together.
At random, painted figures rolled, leaped or dropped in front of the shooter, who instantly had to
a) Figure out if it was friend or foe.
b) Shoot before it shot you first.
c) Sigh in frustration because you had used up seven rounds and found yourself with a handful of useless, locked-open gun.
Imagine the foremost authority on handguns in the world chiding you because you didn't keep track of how many rounds you had left in your gun, or you shot an innocent person because you reacted without comprehending. We learned that we'd better really see. Cooper drilled into us that if we ever pointed our gun at someone, we had committed ourselves to kill. It was sobering instruction.
For hours each evening after class, we wore blisters in our hands practicing reloading until, in seconds, we could drop a magazine, reload another, and find that front sight again in one fluid motion.
If we followed the safety rules and could find our target with reasonable efficiency, we could earn a "Marksman" rating.
But a select few, by virtue of their performance in class, would gain the coveted "Expert" rating. By the end of the week I well understood Jeff Cooper's status and expertise, and I wanted that Expert designation. I wasn't a star in class, but I was holding my own.
The final day of shooting culminated with a "mano-a-mano" shootoff, in which two shooters stand side by side, each with a leg inside a tire at the shooting line. At Cooper's order, the two shooters drew, fired two shots into a side target at about 10 meters, reloaded, and fired one shot into the middle target. The shooter who did this first in two of three tries advanced. Now, I'll admit a bit of extraordinary beginner's luck here, but I outshot the Sheriff of Allen County, Indiana. I won rounds against the sniper shooter and the competition shooter, because both of their guns misfired or jammed. They won their final rounds against me, but I focused on that front sight long enough to get third place. And, believe me, the sweetest words of that day came from a smiling Jeff Cooper's lips "Well, young lady, I believe that just earned you an expert rating!"
If an experience you have in life can conjure up such vivid memories 30 years later, and leave you with lifelong skills to boot, it is definitely worthwhile.
Thanks, Colonel Cooper, for the memories, and the skills.
(Heidi Dahms-Foster is the former editor of the Prescott Valley Tribune, and is now a writer/photographer for Western Newspapers, Inc. the Daily Courier's parent company).
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