Neil A. Cooper ’58 died on May 23, 2022, in Salem, Massachusetts
(The following was provided by the Goldman Funeral Chapel on May 23, 2022)
Neil Abbott Cooper was born July 19, 1936. He was raised and grew up in Malden. He was class president throughout his four years at Malden High School. Neil graduated with honors from Bowdoin College. He attended University of Michigan Law School. After serving two years in the United States Army, he returned to Malden and became a managing co-partner of Fulman, Cooper and Fulman, Attorneys at Law. He held public office and became an elected member of the Malden School Committee and chairman. He was a founder and partner in Cres Development Company as well as Macher Development and Management Co, LLC. He also served as executive director of Jewish Federation of the North Shore.
He had a long history of public service. In Malden, Neil was president of the YMCA, Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce in the 60s. In the 70s he served as a vice president of United Jewish Appeal where he traveled internationally, fund raising, training, and mentoring volunteers in solicitation techniques. He developed and instituted a national program to broaden the donor base. In 1978 when he was forty, he became chairman of the National Young Leadership Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal. He led activities of fundraising and education. Neil founded the Young Leadership Cabinet Washington Conference of over 1,000 young national community leaders from across the country for education, fundraising ,and lobbying efforts, inviting members of Congress to participate in a dialogue which continues to the present. He served as president and campaign chairman of the Jewish Federation of the North Shore in the 80s.
Neil died of Alzheimer’s disease. Over the years, he tried to make sense of the world around him and the place in which he lived. He fought the disease valiantly, though his lack of memory, cognition, and balance didn’t always allow him to do so. He remained independent as long as he could. Neil apologized for his lack of memory. He was aware of his failing as his world grew smaller, yet he remained strong.
He played poker, swam at the Y, walked along the ocean and enjoyed going to HD productions of the MET live Saturday afternoons. Scrabble was his go-to activity always. There were times that making words was difficult, so he played by his rules and spelled them phonetically. He enjoyed traveling with his family and friends, hiking, and skiing in the United States and Europe. He was a frequent visitor to Israel, guiding groups of people on UJA National Missions and North Shore Community Missions as well. He led a trip to Auschwitz Birkenau to educate people about the Holocaust. A Polish guide reported him for being outspoken which denied him a visa to ever return to that country again.
He was married to Deanna Abrams for sixty-one years. He is survived by children Jody, Marc, and Chad and grandchildren Dylann, Morgan, and Jake.
At the end of his life no longer able to write he dictated a memoir to leave to his family. In it he said;
‘Where did I come from?
Where did I start?
How did I arrive here?’
He discussed his journey in life.
“All of you know I’ve had Alzheimer’s for many years.
But I’m still not going to pretend that it’s easy, because it isn’t.
I feel as though the real me is gone and replaced with someone else. This new person can’t always follow conversations, can’t hear much, and can’t even come up with anything to say half of the time. For someone who spent his life listening, talking, writing this is very hard. I wish people would realize underneath it all I’m still me, I still know peace. Even though the disease progresses I still know peace. I have good and bad days, but I always have my wife, I have my children, my grandchildren, and my close friends.
I still get up every morning and live to see another day. And I have the life that I lived. What an incalculable blessing.” (May 2019)