The 1951 All-American Soapbox Derby winner passed away earlier this month at his Danville home.
Darwin Cooper, 75, was an icon for local Soapbox Derby enthusiasts after he represented Williamsport at the national derby held in Akron, Ohio.
Jim Campbell, director of the city's Soapbox Derby, said everyone involved in the derby was saddened by the news.
SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Darwin Cooper poses with his championship-winning Soapbox Derby car in the lobby of the Sun-Gazette building in the weeks before the 2011 city race.
"We're all very surprised and saddened to learn of Darwin's passing," Campbell said. "He was a wonderful representative of the sport."
Cooper, in June, returned to Williamsport to attend the city's Soapbox Derby and celebrate the 60th anniversary of his national title.
Cooper drove the black No. 137 Sun-Gazette Co. car in the national derby. The car now sits on display in the lobby of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.
Campbell said reuniting with the car was special for Cooper and brought back memories of the champ's childhood.
Cooper expressed his enthusiasm in returning to Williamsport in an interview with the Sun-Gazette during the weeks leading up to the derby.
"I'm just glad to be able to come up there and see everybody," Cooper said at the time. "I want to see the new cars and the kids."
Campbell also said Cooper enjoyed talking with the kids at the derby and described him as a "warm, caring man."
While planning for the 2012 derby is still underway, Campbell said the organizers likely will find a way to honor Cooper at the June 16 event.
"Not knowing this would happen, we're all thankful to have had the opportunity to meet him," Campbell said. "He was just the best fellow you'll ever meet."
After winning the 1951 derby, Cooper went on to a career in automotive sales.
A memorial service for Cooper will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 28 at the Brady Funeral Home, 320 Church St., Danville.