If there was a limit to the love Dick Cooper had for his family, friends, community, and land it never showed.
Born August 24, 1939, to Henry ‘Hank’ and Ruth Cooper in Angels Camp, California George ‘Dick’ Cooper was a pioneer in the farming and grape industry. His numerous agricultural contributions, both educational and mechanical in nature, often came with a long-lasting friendship. He lived by the philosophy that “Products of the soil are the greatest industry in the world.’
His elementary school years were spent in the historic one-room Shenandoah Elementary School (Shenandoah Valley Community Club) where he was taught by his grandmother, Elizabeth Deaver Davis. During one fourth grade lunch break, the school toaster failed to heat the cheese sandwiches. In an early display of his mechanical abilities, he took apart and rebuilt the toaster - having it in working order - before his teacher could stop him.
He graduated from Amador High School in 1957 where he was active in student council, FFA, football, track, drama, CSF, and numerous committees. He was truly a friend to all and fun to be around. Dick continued his education at University California at Davis, concentrating on courses in agriculture and making life-long friends before returning to Shenandoah Valley to farm prunes and walnuts.
At twenty-six years old, he proudly served as manager of the Amador County Fair (1966-1971) at the time, making him the youngest person to ever hold the position. His countless contributions to the fairgrounds are still enjoyed by fairgoers each year including the primitive sawmill demonstration, design of the General Mercantile entrance to include lawn and seating, and the planting of shade trees to provide shelter from the late July sun. In 1969, he and his father transported the 1915 Russel steam engine that greets guests at the main fair entrance, and who’s profile has become a recognized logo of the fairgrounds.
In the late 1970’s prune orchards gave way to vineyards and the Cooper Ranch joined the wine grape industry. His first planting of Barbera would later become the flagship variety of the ranch, and one of seventeen varietals he would eventually plant. He co-founded the Amador County Winegrape Growers Association which continues to bring attention to the region as a leader in wine grape production.
Long days of farming were often followed by music filled weekend nights where Dick and his bandmates always drew a crowd in Amador and neighboring counties. Whether on the stage or on the dance floor, he was a local favorite.
After years of thoughtful planning and pondering every detail, Cooper Vineyards winery opened in 2004. Following a day on the tractor or in the field, he would stop in at the tasting room for a glass of wine and to visit with guests. Often, a chance late afternoon greeting with Dick would lead to an invitation to stay and watch the sunset over the vineyard.
Dick was honored to have earned much recognition in his lifetime. Of great significance to him was receiving the 2015 Soil Conservationist of the Year, 2019 California State Fair Vineyard of the Year, and 2019 District 5 Small Business of the Year.
While his success came in many forms, Dick’s pride and joy was having his daughters Jennifer Housler (Dan), Rochelle, Jeri Swift (John) and Chrissy Cheetham (Dave) by his side. That joy was only surpassed by watching his grandchildren Marcus, Eric (Alyssa), Rose, Cooper and Peyton, grow. He was preceded in death by his loving sister, Bonnie.
Generous with his knowledge, Dick Cooper was a mentor, a steward of the land and most of all, a friend where all were welcomed at his table. The Cooper Girls would like to welcome those who knew and loved him to a Celebration of Life in his honor on August 17, 2021, at 11:00am, at the Amador County Fairgrounds.
Donations in memory of Dick may be made to the Shenandoah Community Club Building Fund, or the Amador Cancer Research Foundation. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.danerimortuary.com and signing the guest book.