Joel A. Cooper, 1918-2015

Joel A. Cooper

Joel A. Cooper

The Rev. Dr. Joel Aubrey Cooper, 96, passed away on April 17, 2015, at Parkway Village Health Center in Little Rock. He was born Dec. 26, 1918, in Paragould.

Joel was licensed to preach in 1932 at age 14. He graduated from Hendrix College in 1940, and Duke Divinity School in 1943. As an ordained United Methodist minister, he served churches throughout the Arkansas Conference. His career included church appointments in Vanndale-Cherry Valley, Tuckerman, Mountain Home, Conway, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Fort Smith from 1944 until his retirement in 1984. He continued to be active in the United Methodist Church even after retirement, and worked for Hendrix College in several capacities. He served as the founding pastor for two churches, Maumelle UMC in 1986 and Grace UMC Conway in 1993.

Recognitions during his 70 years of service were numerous. He was named The Progressive Farmer Rural Minister of the Year in 1948. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hendrix College in 1962. The North Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church nominated him as their candidate for election to the United Methodist episcopacy in 1976 and 1980. He was a delegate for many years to the General and World Methodist conferences. He also held numerous Annual Conference, Jurisdictional and General Conference positions.

Joel was a beloved father, grandfather and great-grandfather to his family, with his loving wife, Bill, always by his side at home and in his ministry. He was known as a strong and loving minister to the many congregations he served for over 50 years and continued to preach until his very last years.

Throughout his life, Joel was a faithful and loyal member of the United Methodist Church and was always a devoted fisher of men. However, when he got the opportunity for a free afternoon, he also enjoyed being on the lake catching fish. In retirement, he was an avid woodworker, writer and poet.

After he retired, he always smiled when he handed someone his calling card. On the bottom he had added in bright red ink, “WILL PREACH FOR FOOD,” and many congregations throughout Arkansas did indeed take him up on it.

His beloved wife, Billie Charlene (Thacker) Cooper, a native of Danville, preceded him in death in June 2014. He also was preceded in death by his parents, Willis Cooper and Willie Mae Hensley McAden; his oldest son, Paul G. Cooper; grandsons, John Denton Cooper and Wesley Christopher Cooper; as well as his sister, Nestel Wilkinson.

He is survived by three sons: the Rev. Wm. Christopher Cooper and his wife, Kathy, of Little Rock, AR; Dr. C. Marcus Cooper and his wife, Donna, of Johnson City, Tenn.; and J. Clayborne Cooper and his wife, Cindi, of Murfreesboro,Tenn.; a daughter-in-law, Anita Ladensack and Joe of Phoenix, Ariz.; a brother, John Cooper and his wife, Patty, of Conway; and six grandchildren: Emily Horton (Jimmy), Matt Cooper (Priscilla), Josh Cooper (Jessica), Charlie Cooper (Allison), Casy Brian (Matt), Andee Parks (John); and six great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was held Thursday, April 23 at First United Methodist Church, 723 Center Street, Little Rock, with a reception following in the Winston Faulkner Gymnasium.

The family requests that memorials be made to the Bill and Joel Cooper Duke Divinity School Scholarship Endowment through the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, 5300 Evergreen Dr., Little Rock, AR 72205-1814. This scholarship will help provide Arkansas students who want to serve the local church in the Arkansas Conference a seminary education at Duke Divinity School.