Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Local clergyman celebrates life dedicated to church

March 19, 2003

Sixty years is a lifetime for some people.

To the Rev. Leo Cooper, it's the equivalent of a career spent serving the Catholic Church.

On Sunday, Feb. 2, at the Holy Angels Catholic Church in Basehor, Cooper, 85, celebrated his diamond anniversary, commemorating the 60th anniversary of his ordination.

"Just a day at a time," said Cooper, when asked of the secret to his longevity serving the church. "My health is good. At the moment, I have no intentions to retire."

Cooper, a 1935 graduate of Basehor High School, is an archivist for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. The church offices are at 16215 Parallel Parkway.

His duties with the church have varied over the years, from pastor at places like Holy Angels where he served from 1992 to 1993, to his current position as overseer of 9,000 church books and documents for the archbishop.

His dedication to the church has also taken him to foreign countries such as Kenya, Ireland, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the Holy Land itself, Israel.

For the boy who paid for his education in seminary by working for $2 a day shocking bundles of wheat, Cooper said he knew from an early age serving the church would be his mission in life.

"I thought that's what I wanted to do -- help people," he said. "Even as a young person, I thought that's what I'd do."

Cooper and his family moved from Delia to Basehor in 1933.

The family had lost their farm in Delia and arrived in Basehor with little more than the clothes on their backs and the Model T they traveled in.

Cooper said he remembers a town back then much different from today's Basehor. All students were "squeezed" into the same schoolhouse; 155th Street wasn't yet a street and the Sunday paper was "thrown" by a family using a workhorse.

The city now has a church with a large Catholic congregation -- Basehor in 1933 had a very small Catholic population.

However, Cooper said he remembers a town where the majority "of the community was very cordial" and welcomed his family.

Basehor resident Anna Mary Landauer, who was a neighbor to Cooper back then, helped organize Cooper's 60th anniversary party.

His party was attended by classmates from Basehor High School as well as friends from Leavenworth and Tonganoxie.

"This man has set a really wonderful example to me and to a lot of other people," Landauer said. "To me he is a very humble, very outstanding person and he came from our community

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