What would Woapalanee say of Cooper?
A maintenance fund has been established in perpetuity for the garden at the entrance to Brandon Park.
For many years, locals could look forward to a colorful display of flowers and plants that were meticulously maintained and nurtured by a group of volunteers headed up by the late Dr. Kenneth Cooper.
It was not unusual to drive through the intersection known as Confusion Corner in the early morning hours and see Cooper on his hands and knees in his off-white overalls, caring for the plantings.
Ever since his passing a decade ago, we have missed seeing Cooper there, just as we have missed the sight of Woapalanee standing guard at the park’s entrance, part of artist Peter Wolf Toth’s nationwide Trail of Whispering Giants.
Many readers will recall Woapalanee, surrounded by a bed of red and yellow tulips each spring. The wood carving of the Indian chief spent 25 years at the park’s entrance before it became rotted and dangerous. It has since been restored and relocated downtown.
But when Woapalanee was dedicated in 1990, Toth suggested passersby stop and reflect on what he might be “whispering” about.
Were Woapalanee still standing there today, we believe he might be whispering about how much he appreciated the efforts of Dr. Cooper, whose contributions to the park went well beyond the entrance.
We believe he would whisper about the remarkable passion and volunteer spirit Cooper had not just as caretaker of the garden but also as chairman of the park commission.
We believe he would whisper about how the community could use more volunteers like Cooper who took an interest in caring for the land.
Both Woapalanee and Cooper were beloved community figures. We miss seeing both of them as we pass by Brandon Park.