On May 23rd St. Mark's held a requiem eucharist for Bert Cooper. I photographed this eucharist. You can find my images of this event on Flickr at A Requiem Eucharist Celebration of Bert Cooper. He was a fine man who made many good contributions to our world. Quite a few people shared that impression. When he passed away he was 80 years old.
He had been born on December 2, 1934. When he was born my Uncle Dick was only 10 years old. My father was all of 21. I remember my father as a fine man I am proud to call Dad. Uncle Don was also a fine man I am glad I can count as a relative. What memories do I have of Uncle Dick? None -- unless you count comments by my parents. I have memories of relatives saying he was the smartest of the three brothers. My father and Uncle Don were, shall we say, exceptionally intelligent good men who I was glad to spend time with. I obviously spent much more time with Dad than Uncle Don, but I still remember how good both of them were.
Why don't I have memories of Uncle Dick? Uncle Dick was killed in the last days of World War II in Europe. Bert Cooper was only 10 years old. Uncle Dick was only 21. My father was only 32. My mother was only 29.
I sometimes think what contributions to not only my family but the larger world Uncle Dick would have made had the NAZIs surrendered on April 1, 1945 rather than May 8, 1945. He would have a been a very positive influence on my life. The year he spent at Rutgers he had been a mathematics major. It would have been wonderful to have someone with a mathematics degree to talk to when I was a boy growing up and getting interested in things like physics, astronomy, space exploration and more. He could have helped me actually understand the book by Eddington titled "Mathematical Theories of Relativity." That's just one thing he could have done.
These days we are asked to remember the contributions in defending our country what the good people (usually men) who died defending us from people like the NAZIs. I am quite willing to do that. But I also think about what Uncle Dick could have contributed if he had lived to 80, 90 or more. His contributions would have been far greater than what he could contribute from his birth in 1924 until his tragic death in 1945.