Kendrick Vere Cooper, 79, recently of Henderson, Nevada, passed away peacefully at the home of his daughter in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Ken was a native of Texas, but was raised and educated in Sulphur and New Orleans, Louisiana, where he graduated from Tulane University. Louisiana left a lasting impact on him as he traveled to the Northeast for his career and later to Nevada in retirement. His love for New Orleans jazz (and some modern derivatives) and Cajun food were passed on to friends wherever he was.
Ken attended school in Maplewood and Sulphur. He excelled in school there and loved music, playing cornet in the Golden Tornado band at Sulphur High School. Ken was one of the first National Merit Finalists at Sulphur High.
He was thrilled and humbled to be honored at the school’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2013 by being included on the school’s Wall of Fame for his career and contributions in the field of nuclear science. Ken was an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
Following his graduation from high school in 1957, Ken attended Tulane University, graduating in 1960 with a major in physics and minors in math and chemistry. He married high school classmate Rena Murphy in 1958, and daughter Rachel was born to them in New Orleans. He joined General Electric in the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Department in Cincinnati, Ohio, where son Kendrick Jr. was born. The following year he moved to GE’s Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) in Niskayuna, New York, where he worked until his retirement in 1999. Ken’s father had worked in research at GE’s original facility in Schenectady, New York, many years before, until the Great Depression sent him back to Iowa to help on the family farm.
During his career Ken’s main focus was on developing reactors and shielding for the Nimitz class nuclear submarines. He acted as KAPL Physicist for initial testing of seven new nuclear submarines at Naval facilities in Groton, Connecticut, and Newport News, Virginia. He also served the Scotia community by organizing and identifying photo archives of the city’s history and serving as a snowmobile sheriff's deputy.
In retirement Ken moved to Henderson, Nevada, where he enjoyed the warmer climate and many attractions there. When Ken became ill, he was welcomed into the home of his daughter Rachel and son-in-law Steve Courville in Lafayette.
Ken is survived by his sister Kay Young and her husband Sherman of Katy, Texas; their son Ben and his wife Laura, and their children Graham and Eli; his daughter, Rachel Courville and her husband Steve, their daughter, Caitlin Freeman and her husband Dakota of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and his son Kendrick and his children Austin Spencer, Annabelle Rose and Marceleine Nakoma of Delray Beach, Florida; and special friends Frosty and Bonnie Forcheskie of Nevada. He also leaves behind aunts, uncles, and cousins in his extended family.
Ken was preceded in death by his parents George Vere and Rachel Lackmann Cooper, his stepmother Lee Lackmann Waugh Cooper, his former wife Rena Murphy Cooper Derieg, and his companion Anne de Diego.
His funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, in Hixson-Sulphur Memorial Funeral Home. The Rev. Ellen Alston will officiate. Burial will be in Prien Memorial Park Cemetery in Lake Charles. Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. until the time of service Saturday in the funeral home. Words of comfort may be shared with the family at www.hixsonfuneralhomes.com.