WHEN Reverend Jack Cooper started preaching at St Michael’s Church in Willington, just six people turned up.
It took the popular vicar just seven years to swell the congregation and successfully bring the local community together.
“Dad loved his job,” said his son, Clinton Cooper. “He loved people and he loved being part of a community.
“He was the best preacher I ever heard and that’s why more and more people went to church to hear him.
“He was a community man with a great community spirit. He made his gospels personal and that is why the congregation loved to listen.”
Rev Cooper died at his retirement home in Whitby on January 2. He was 69. “It was my dad who arranged for the Welcome sign to be put up outside St Michael’s in Willington and 20 years later, it is still there.
“He loved people and getting involved in community projects. Thanks to him, both churches in Willington and Findern were renovated. We have a lot to thank him for.”
Rev Cooper was born in Leeds and studied at St John’s Theological College in Nottingham. He was ordained as a deacon at Ripon Cathedral in Yorkshire in 1978, before becoming the curate of St Edmund’s Rounday in Leeds.
In 1981, he became the curate at All Saint’s Church in Ripley, and a few months later he took up the reins at St Michael’s in Willington, and All Saint’s Church in Findern.
Later he moved to Parwich and became the vicar of St Peter’s Church and St Michael’s in Alsop-en-de-Dale.
“He was always heavily involved with the community,” said Clinton. “I remember once he went out to help a local farmer whose sheep had escaped from his farm. Nothing was ever too much trouble. I also remember dad allowing the TV crew for the programme, Peak Practice, to film in the grounds of one of his churches.
“He was always so obliging. If the phone rang in the middle of the night and someone needed him, he would go.”
It was during his time in Parwich that Rev Cooper married his wife, Rosaline Annie Lyon, in 1991. Before retiring at the age of 52, Rev Cooper became the chaplain of Derbyshire County Cricket Club and would talk fondly of friendships he made with the team.
“He was just an ordinary bloke who tried to serve the Lord in his own way.”
As well as Rev Cooper’s two children, he had five grandchildren, Sam, 21, Christopher, 12, Victoria, 10, Graham, two, and one-year-old Megan.
Rev Cooper’s daughter, Rachel Reid, 43, from Allestree, said: “Dad was a very sensitive man who cared very deeply about many issues.
“His work was his life but he absolutely adored his holidays and over the last 20 years he visited most of Europe.
“He was very well known in the Whitby community and during his working life in Derbyshire.”
As well as Rev Cooper’s two children, he had five grandchildren, Sam, 21, Christopher, 12, Victoria, 10, Graham, 2 and one-year-old Megan.
His funeral is on Monday, January 13, at The Priory, Sneaton Castle in Whitby, at 11.45am.