Derek L. Cooper

Derek L. CooperDerek L Cooper lost his heroic battle with multiple myeloma cancer Feb. 24, 2020, with his wife of 36 years, Tracy, by his side. He was 65.

Derek was born Sept. 20, 1954, to Donald and Thelma Cooper. At three months his parents moved to Ridgecrest, where he spent his entire life. He graduated from Burroughs High School in a wheel chair in front of the Ridgecrest Community Hospital. He had suffered severe injuries in a car accident, which left him ineligible for military service.

He started his 33-year career at China Lake in the range department, where he became very familiar with operations, locations and safety. In 1980, he took a job as a clerk typist at many locations. Derek had taken typing class in school because that is where all the girls were. It paid off. In 1984 he went to work at his final organization —the life cycle environmental engineering branch, where he worked as an engineering technician. As the years went by, Derek got to know many people.

In 2006, Derek had the privilege of literally saving warfighters lives. Naval Air Warfare Center was requested by the Joint IED Defeat Organization to stand up an emergency team to support the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Yuma Proving Grounds to test and incorporate jammers into theater and prevent the many lives being lost to the IEDs. The team so impressed JIEDDO and ATEC that the work was brought to China Lake. Derek helped set up the new site here at China Lake. This was one of his most personally proud jobs. His country and the war fighter are what he his career entailed.

In 2007 Derek started working for what would be his last department — Advanced Systems Development Program Office. Here he traveled the world, made lifelong friends and enjoyed his work more than ever. The team made a difference and for sure saved the lives of even more war fighters deploying immediately wherever they were needed.

In 2011 Derek was diagnosed with stage 2 multiple myeloma. In 2012 he retired from NAWCWD and became a stay-at-home dad to our now beautiful daughter.

Derek was so proud of his kids. Michael, who turned out to be one of his best friends and confidante, helped him every night for over a year as he declined. Derek constantly told him what a blessing he was for staying with him during this time. Stevannee who changed our lives forever and for the better. Their relationship was as unique as their personalities. She is forever his light and pride and joy.

Derek loved hunting, fishing, golfing, his cabin and most of all his family and friends.

Derek was preceded in death by his father Donald W Cooper, sister Susan Peterson and son Mojave Felkner. He is survived by his wife Tracy C Cooper, son Michael A Addison, daughter Stevannee M Valencia, mother Thelma J Cooper, nieces Kaleana Bartholic and Jacqueline Morales, nephew Russell Peterson and many great nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers please donate to Norris Cancer Center, USC, Los Angeles, CA.

A Celebration of Life (Derek’s Exit Party) will be held at Triple T’s Tavern on April 18 from noon to 5 p.m. Please dress casual and bring a story of an event or something you remember about Derek. He wants everyone to know that he fought the good fight but is now out of pain and probably trying to make all the Democrats in heaven into Republicans.

— Submitted by the family of Derek Cooper

Story First Published: 2020-03-06