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Life lessons learned
Eaton Rapids, MI – For David Cooper, his time at the VFW National Home for Children was filled with important life lessons.
“I learned a lot about how work can be its own reward,” Cooper said. “This, in large part, contributed to the man I am today.”
Cooper was a young man when he arrived at the Home in 1947. His father, David R. Cooper, Sr., was a Captain in the U.S. Army Corps during World War I, and was deceased.
He soon found a home at the Washington Cottage, which housed a total of four boys and four girls under the guidance and care of House Mother Anna “Merkie” Markison.
Before long he learned the rules and responsibilities of his new home. Summertime was filled with activities and learning opportunities, and playing sports and games.
When he reached the age of 12, Cooper joined the other boys on a work crew that helped with such tasks as growing fruits and vegetables, haying and mowing, and picking the rich harvest of apples in hundreds of acres of orchards.
Cooper writes of the apple harvesting, “Harvest when ripe, sort for the market and keep lots for our own use.”
The Home had only one power mower at the time; there were eight to 10 push mowers for use. The older boys would race to see how fast they could mow one lawn, while the younger ones would do the hand trimming with shears.
Cooper also helped keep the Home’s cars and buses clean and shiny. He remembers Charles Adams, the Home’s Director at the time, as “an amazing man, [whom] I respected then and even more so today.” Adams drove a shiny black Roadmaster, and had a ritual of parking on Hospital Hill to watch the boys and girls in their Sunday best board “those clean and [shiny] buses” bound for church in Eaton Rapids.
“Mr. Adams would smile because it was good, and I felt good, as I had contributed,” he writes of Adams’ Sunday ritual.
After graduating from Eaton Rapids High School in 1953, Cooper attended one semester at Michigan College of Mining and Technology using a $500 scholarship from the VFW Ladies Auxiliary of Washington. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1954, and remained in that branch of service until 1968. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, retiring from the military in 1974.
After his years of service, he went on to do a number of things, including opening a private vocational school with a former military comrade and starting his own construction business, retiring after 20 years.Cooper is married to Adrienne, and they have three children and four grandchildren. They reside in Colorado.