He flew in World War II.
He flew for his employer, Standard Oil Co.
He flew for an uncle's small Florida airline, and finally for the National Guard.
He loved flying so much that it's a wonder he wasn't born with wings.
George William Cooper of Monroe, Standard Oil retiree and retired Air Force major, died June 3, 2008. He was 90 and flew with the Army National Guard and Reserves until 1978.
The war broke out in 1942, and he enlisted in the Army Air Forces. He got into the glider pilot program and, when the Allies invaded France, Italy and Germany, he was right there.
George moved to Greensboro before attending UNC Chapel Hill, where he ran track. He married Kathryn Berry in 1939, and daughter Kit was born before a parting of the ways.
“He was my hero,” Kit McLean said, “such a gorgeous man, very much a perfectionist in doing things right. That has influenced me a lot, and that drive is still in me today.”
In 1953, he married Marjorie Spain, with whom he had grown up in Charlotte's Avondale neighborhood.
Their mothers had been friends, and Marjorie liked that he was considerate and sentimental. He gave her gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
“He liked to give orders; he was very military and expected his orders to be followed,” Marjorie said. “He wanted things done his way. He'd tell you what he thought, and it didn't faze him one bit to tell you off if he felt like it. He was a sweet person, but rough on the outside.”
To George and Marjorie were born daughters Deborah and Pamela.
He taught the girls shooting, woodworking, all the boy stuff. “He taught us how to play kick ball, baseball, Putt-Putt, and to ride ponies – we may as well have been boys,” said daughter Deborah Pulley.
“He was not wealthy, but if we showed an interest in anything, he wanted to promote it,” Deborah said.
Daughter Pamela Redfearn said, “When I was little, he bought me a Shetland pony, then one Christmas he bought me a leather and suede saddle. I thought I was quite spiffy. Every summer Dad and I would go sailing, water-skiing, and he and I would go fishing.”
George and Pamela shared a passion for football and watched the last Super Bowl from their separate homes. “The national anthem came on and I started boo-hooing,” Pamela said. “He was on the phone, boo-hooing, too.”
Talented with his hands
“He was very patriotic and sentimental. If he talked about the war or Army buddies, he'd start to cry. If he talked about Mom, he would definitely cry,” Pamela said.
One of George's major interests was woodworking. “He was very talented with his hands,” Kit said. “He thought that anybody who could not do something with his hands, there was something wrong with them,” Marjorie said.
George had a complete two-story woodworking shop at home; he loved to make things for the family and as gifts. “He carved an eagle for over the fireplace that took a year,” Marjorie said.
Deborah loved her dad's favorite saying, which he carved into a wooden sign that still hangs in his shop. “Life's too short to dance with an ugly woman.”
George did not dance with an ugly woman.