Community icon dies at 94

Community  icon dies at 94Longtime Ridgecrest resident Ruth Elise Cooper died April 15, 2019. She was 94.

She was born to Daniel G. Flohr and Corbin L. McDowell on Nov. 3, 1924, in Vicksburg, Miss. She grew up during the Great Depression and worked in Washington, D.C., as a secretary for the federal government during World War II as a secretary. She remained a Southern Belle her entire life.

Ruth’s story cannot be told without sharing that of her husband. She married Gordon Leslie “Les” Cooper in 1949. He grew up on a cattle ranch in South Dakota and was a renowned football player at the University of Minnesota where he studied mining. He was a professional boxer, hunter, storyteller and stuntman in countless Hollywood westerns until he broke his back.

He became an attorney in 1943. The couple moved to Ridgecrest in 1952. With her husband’s encouragement to pursue a career as an attorney, Ruth entered McGeorge Law School in 1959. In 1964 she became the first woman to practice law in Ridgecrest.

At about that time, the couple purchased the 160-acre property known as Dunmovin, where they lived and practiced law. Their only source of water was a seven-mile, above-ground pipeline they had to patch on a weekly basis. They ran a cafe in that historic community, where they helped countless stranded motorists, sheltered abused children and partnered with miners in Death Valley and the Panamint Mountains.

They moved back to Ridgecrest around 1975. In the 1980s, Ruth ran for judge a couple of times, though she was not elected.

She began to branch out into other areas, including as a supporter of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (now Christ the King Anglican). She also made many contributions to artistic endeavors and organizations in the Indian Wells Valley. When the High Desert Council for the Arts was formed, she ran the Art Buffet — a gallery and framing shop.

She was the first woman to serve as president of Cerro Coso Community College’s Fire Mountain Foundation, sitting on the board of directors from 1977 to 2008. She was also on the corporate board of Ridgecrest Regional Hospital from 1976 to 2008.

Les passed away in 1993, but Ruth remained active as a community volunteer.

Ruth and Les never had children, but they are survived by their niece Lucy Flohr and nephews, Grego Cooper and Stephen L. Lopardo, along with scores of others they mentored.

Ruth once said, “Thanksgiving to God for a full and happy life and for the love I have received from my Lord, my family, my husband and my friends.”

A mass will be held Saturday, May 4, at 10:30 a.m. at Christ the King Anglican Church, 201 W Graaf Ave. Father B. Townsend Waddill will officiate. A reception will follow. Ruth’s and Les’ ashes will be interred at the Rose Garden at Desert Memorial Park.

Contributions in her memory may be made to the RRH Development Foundation or Christ the King Anglican Church.

Arrangements are provided by Holland & Lyons Mortuary.

Story First Published: 2019-04-26