Y earn­ing for ed­u­ca­tion led to de­grees in re­tire­ment

Wil­liam Fran­cis Cooper 1930-2020

The Irish Times - - Obituaries - SORCHA POL­LAK

Wil­liam Fran­cis Cooper al­ways dreamed of re­turn­ing to ed­u­ca­tion, a goal he achieved fol­low­ing re­tire­ment in the late 1990s. Born in Dublin in Au­gust 1930, Wil­liam grew up in Marino. The el­dest of six chil­dren, he of­ten helped to care for his younger sib­lings and ex­celled in school.

When he was 13 he left ed­u­ca­tion to em­bark on a ca­reer in print­ing and trained as a com­pos­i­tor (type­set­ter). He rose up through the ranks and went on to be­come a sales di­rec­tor and di­rec­tor of a print­ing com­pany.

Wil­liam mar­ried and had seven chil­dren. He loved clas­si­cal mu­sic, par­tic­u­larly Beethoven and Brahms, and was an ac­com­plished pi­ano player who de­lighted in en­ter­tain­ing the fam­ily. He al­ways played Han­del’s Mes­siah at Christ­mas, a tra­di­tion the fam­ily con­tin­ues to this day.

“Christ­mas is not Christ­mas with­out it,” says his daugh­ter Adele McGovern. “As kids we’d wake up to it ev­ery Christ­mas morn­ing so it has to be played in our house at some stage on Christ­mas Day.”

In the late 1990s, in his late 60s, he ful­filled his am­bi­tion of re­turn­ing to ed­u­ca­tion and com­pleted an un­der­grad­u­ate and master’s de­gree in his­tory with a the­sis based on his fam­ily’s his­tory. “He loved Trin­ity and be­cause of his age he be­came great friends with most of the pro­fes­sors,” says Adele. “He re­ferred to them as the aca­demics and up un­til shortly be­fore he died he was still hav­ing weekly vis­its from them.”

Wil­liam loved rail­ways and ded­i­cated his free time to build­ing a model rail­way in the at­tic of the fam­ily home in Ra­heny. When Adele was eight years old, the rail­way ap­peared in an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Kilkenny de­sign shop on Dublin’s Nas­sau Street. “It took up the en­tire at­tic and was the old Dundalk line. The de­tail was in­cred­i­ble and when you looked through the tiny houses you could see house­hold items on the tiny tables. My mother even made tiny bras and knick­ers to hang on the wash­ing line.

“The en­gines cost a for­tune but ev­ery now and again he’d lift you up and let you flick a switch and the trains would go in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.” Wil­liam passed on this love of trains to his grand­chil­dren, in­clud­ing one who now works as a train driver in Eng­land.

Wil­liam moved into a nurs­ing home in De­cem­ber 2019, just one week be­fore his son Michael died. He de­vel­oped a cold over the Easter week­end and a few days later he tested pos­i­tive for Covid-19. He was trans­ferred to Beau­mont Hos­pi­tal where he spent the fi­nal week of his life.

“The staff at Beau­mont was ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble. The nurses would ring me ev­ery day to check in. The whole coun­try thinks peo­ple are dy­ing on their own at the mo­ment but they’re not; I was with my dad for 3½ hours be­fore he died. My brother ar­rived an hour after me. We had all the gear on but I could hold his hand and talk to him.”

Wil­liam died on April 30th, aged 89. He is sur­vived by his wife Eileen, his six re­main­ing chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, great grand­chil­dren and many friends. The fam­ily takes great com­fort in the knowl­edge that Wil­liam and his son Michael have been re­united and are “shar­ing a small sup of Jame­son whiskey and sto­ries of Michael Collins, the first World War and Churchill”.


‘He loved Trin­ity and be­cause of his age he be­came great friends with most of the pro­fes­sors’, says Adele. ‘He re­ferred to them as the aca­demics’.

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