Wayne Cooper Leaves Behind Big Shoes to Fill
He was a mountain of a man with a deep and gentle soul. Hundreds of friends and family gathered together on Aug. 7 to celebrate the life of Wayne Everett Cooper (1944-2018) at Colony Park Community
Center in Atascadero.
The gymnasium was filled with orange and grey shirts on folks walking around sharing memories, laughter, tears, and hugs. Outside, many of those closest to Wayne cooked the meal to be served. Wayne spent many years cooking as a part of the Bones BBQ crew, and was given the day off in honor and respect.
Wayne was born a Greyhound, and his final breath was taken on the all-weather track he helped build at Atascadero High School’s Memorial Stadium. On Wednesday, Aug. 1, after pulling a regular volunteer shift at the final All Comers Track and Field meet of the season, Wayne helped his friend Donn Clickard carry supplies in their little red wagon back
to the truck.
When they reached the edge of the track, he and Donn went to pick the wagon up over the curb, as they had done so many times before, but something moved to make certain Wayne never stepped foot off that track again.
“He was there, and then he wasn’t,” Donn said about witnessing his best friend pass away just a couple feet away.
The noise of hundreds of attendees was gone from the meet, and now the belly laugh of one of Atascadero’s most notable characters was to be just an echo in the minds and hearts of those fortunate enough to have heard it.
Luckily, Wayne spent a lot of time helping others, so he shared his laughter quite often.
Undoubtedly incomplete, the list of Wayne’s service positions include AHS sophomore class president, student body vice president, student body president, school district board trustee, SLO County Planning Commissioner, an active member of the Atascadero Elks Club, supporter of FFA and 4-H programs, Atascadero Chamber of Commerce board, president of Atascadero Greyhound Foundation and co-founder of LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero.
Wayne was also the patriarch of a large local family of Coopers that included three sons, a daughter, and 16 grandchildren.
During Wayne’s service in August, three of his grandsons spoke to the friends and family gathered. Everett spoke about his grandfather going to any length to help, with a story about Wayne and his wife Diana driving 12 hours to help Everett move out of his dorm at Arizona State University — a 20-minute endeavor — and then driving 12 hours home. Alex spoke to his grandfather’s unconditional support, win or lose. Creston related the tale of the boy throwing starfish into the ocean … because making a difference to even one life is significant.
Donn took the podium and spoke to the friendship and support Wayne gave him.
“Wayne was one of the finest people [we] had the opportunity to have known and loved,” Donn said. “His commitment to his family cannot be overstated. Wayne’s work has been to the benefit of the youth of Atascadero.”
Donn followed with quotes by others, including Wayne’s granddaughter Charlotte, who said “Papa swings me just the right height on the spiderweb swing.”
At 73 years old, Wayne gave more than his share and the community response to his passing proved it was a life well-lived.
He was called a “One-of-a-kind treasure of a human being” and “a rock and very essence of integrity” who left behind “hard shoes to fill” and was an “example for all.”
Donn summed up his oration with the encouragement to all present to “try to swing each other just the right height on the spiderweb swing.”
“For me, Wayne was the model of dependability, a steady influence in my life,” Donn said. “He epitomized the meaning of friendship, loyalty, intelligence and common sense.”
Donn served the community alongside Wayne for more than 25 years and out of all Donn’s confidants, Wayne was most influential.
“Wayne was my go-to guy,” Donn said. “He was always so clear in his answers. He responded specifically to my question succinctly, and it was not necessarily what I wanted to hear. It is trite to say, but he was always thinking about what was best for the kids. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t do exactly what he said.”
Like his laugh, the quiet and thoughtful depths of Wayne Cooper will always echo in the hearts and minds of those familiar with him.
The family of Wayne Cooper has asked those who wish to give in Wayne’s honor, to give to the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation at atascaderogreyhoundfoundation.org, or P.O. Box 3120, Atascadero, CA 93423.