Neil, with his daughters Corinne and Julie, on the occasion of his 90th birthday party at Arminel
On Tuesday 11 August 2020 Neil Cooper passed away after a long illness, leaving behind an impressive reputation as a successful businessman in Alice and a legacy of service to community.
Neil Cooper was the minister for the St Patrick’s first service of the month. For years he loyally drove up the mountain from Fort Beaufort to take the service. His favourite sermon revolved around the importance of leaders to have integrity and to serve their people, especially as accountability was lacking in our democracy. Neil, himself, was an example of integrity and selfless service to society. He did not accept travel allowance to travel to St Patrick’s but would pass the chapel’s donation to his Alice Church. The words of his favourite hymns say so much about his values: Love Divine, all love’s excelling; Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah and O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end.
O Jesus, I have
promised to serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide.
Neil was a legend as a successful businessman in Alice. He owned properties which he would rent and managed the Cooper Brothers in Alice to become a very reputable commercial business. From this sound anchor, Neil could help the many needy organizations that came to his door for help. He was a major contributor to worthy causes, gave of his expertise and time to lead bodies like SANTA, and many others. Many individuals appreciated Neil’s generosity: tenants who were given space when they could not pay their rental and needy who were helped. His kindness was noted.
Neil’s strength of character showed commitment in focussing on priorities, working hard, maintaining strong principles, helping others in need, and showing love to his family. Neil served society; showed generosity to people in need; and was a loving family man. He loved his wife, Jean, dearly; he was proud of his daughters, Corinne and Julie and her husband Gary, and enjoyed time with his grandchildren, Laura and Liam.
Neil’s message to us is important. He reminded us through his example and preaching that humility, faith, hard work and integrity are the basics of life. He would quote the missionaries that had built up the famous institutions of Lovedale and Fort Hare as being humble people who were models of good living. These values have been forgotten and need to be revived.
Rest in Peace, Neil.