Cudmore: Amsterdam’s brothers in arms during WWII

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Brothers Bernard and Richard Cooper, who grew up in Amsterdam, served their country during World War II.

Bernard was in the Navy and Richard in the Army.

One of their nieces, Diane Jazeboski of Scotia, wrote, “Bernie enlisted in the Navy right after Pearl Harbor while Dick (known as Trooper Cooper) served with the Army in the Tenth Mountain Division. Saved among our large family of nieces and nephews are letters sent home from Bernie and Dick.”

During the 1940s, the family of seven children, two boys and five girls, lived with their mother Josephine who was of Polish origin at 198 Brookside Ave.

Their father, Louis Kuprewicz, had died in 1932. The family’s Lithuanian name was changed to Cooper.

Bernie Cooper was the poet, according to Jazeboski. His daughters have compiled a book called “Sea Star” to showcase his poetry and naval career.

Jazeboski said, “We are all exceptionally proud of their military history.”

Dick Cooper graduated from Albany Business College in 1936 at the top of his class. Through the years he told a story about how he enlisted in the Army despite his poor vision. He sneaked into the recruiting station ahead of time and memorized the eye chart so he could pass the physical.

He became a captain in the ski patrol of the 10th Mountain Division and earned a bronze star for leading his company in their last action in 1945, a rapid crossing of a lake in northern Italy. 

His unit captured Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s villa in Gargnano. Mussolini already had fled the villa but was later captured and killed by Italian partisans.

Items Cooper took from the dictator’s villa were donated to museums. An Italian lieutenant gave Trooper Cooper an Alpine hat and said, “You drove the Nazis out of Italy and I present this to you.”

After the war, Dick Cooper worked 27 years as an accountant for General Electric, moving to Cincinnati after starting at Schenectady GE.

Eventually he established his own accounting company in Cincinnati, from which he retired in 2004. He retraced his steps through Italy with fellow veterans several times and at age 80 took a backpacking trip by himself through Alaska.

He was chairman of the Cincinnati Citizens School Committee. He grew grapes and was a winemaker, and died at age 88 in 2006.

His divorced wife, Lucille Hillman Cooper, preceded him in death as did one of their daughters, three of Dick’s sisters and his brother Bernie.

Bernie Cooper, born in 1920, enlisted in the Navy in January 1942 soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He served on the heavy cruiser Tuscaloosa and the destroyer escort Baker during World War II.

A career Navy man, after the war he was assigned to several ships: the transport Westmoreland, destroyer Bristol, light cruiser Worcester and aircraft carrier Tarawa.

Bernie earned the rank of senior chief quartermaster and then became a naval recruiter. He died in 1984.

He married Margaret Walsh of Cambridge, Mass., who is still alive and living in Connecticut. They had three daughters and lived in several places including Monroe, Conn.

Bernie wrote a poem to his brother Richard during war time titled “Silver Railroad Tracks,” a reference to the double silver bars worn by Army captains.

 “And if some day we should meet,

With required salute I would proudly greet.

But way down under it would be more than that,

I’d salute Dick Cooper, not just his hat.”

The Cooper brothers enjoyed return visits to Amsterdam and liked to visit one of their old haunts, the former Crystal Bar on Lyon Street.

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