In Memory

Mike Cooper

Mike Cooper


Foreign Exchange Student from New Zealand

Born:  April 14,1948

Died: March 26, 1967

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03/26/16 08:50 AM #1    

Mike Coleman

We cohosted the talent show our senior year.  He was a fine young man who died just after high school.

05/22/16 10:44 PM #2    

Karen Lyerla

Michael attended King's High School in Dunedin, New Zealand before coming to spend his senior year at SMWest as a foreign exchange student.  He lived with Charlie Gullet's family.  He lettered in cross country receiving the "outstanding runner of the year" award.  Michael's special person for most of his senior year was Thane Ann Vieselmeyer. After graduating from SMWest, Michael  returned home to New Zealand.  He was an avid runner, skier and mountain climber.  He died in a mountain climbing accident in 1967.

I think that Michael's cousin, Bob McKerrow, gives us the best perspective from an article he wrote in 2010.

A life snuffed out like a flame from a candle.

Cooper, Michael Campbell, Born Apr 14 1948 in Cust, Rangiora County, Canterbury, New Zealand, Died Mar 26 1967 on Mt Awful, Wanaka, Otago, New Zealand
I saw this stark record on a website this morning. A wave of emotions from sadness to guilt swept over me. This was a death I had somehow shut out of my life since I got the news two days later, on March 28 1967.

Michael Cooper was my cousin. I was 24 days older than Michael. Our paths crossed frequently on the athletic track, mountaineering scene and on the Otago Youth Council. Michael was a brilliant student at King High School in Dunedin, and then went on to Otago University. He died on Mt. Awful, Otago, New Zealand. almost 44 years ago.

Gillespie Pass and Mt. Awful were where Michael Cooper died.

Unbeknown to me, Michael had joined a group of mountaineers from the Otago University to go climbing up the Young Valley, their goal Mt. Awful. Mt Awful, a 2192-metre peak near Gillespie Pass, dominates the headwaters of the Young River. Its neighbouring peaks are Mt. Horrible and Mt. Dreadful.

Michael had camped on a ledge somewhere under Mt. Awful, and as he walked along a ledge to get some water to cook the evening meal with, he slipped on some mountain tussock, and fell to his death over a rocky ledge and down a mountain face. Eighteen years old, academically bright, handsome, athletic and the world was at his feet. A life snuffed out like a flame from a candle.

Three days later when I arrived home elated having climbed Mount Huxley, “ My Mother hugged me and said, “Michael Cooper is dead.” I was numbed.

In the conservative 50s and 60s, we were never encouraged to go to funerals and somehow I never really grieved for Michael.
Sadly for his father and mother, my Uncle Campbell and Auntie Mavis, they had lost their first son, Murray. His death was on the same website I visited this morning.

I remember writing a poem at the time about the deaths of friends on mountains. Perhaps that is how I worked through my grief:

All stones we learn as children
Are dead inanimate things
But stones falling on a mountain
Are alive with a death that sings

A stone's song is enchanting
Fit for mountain Kings
First it’s high, then low
Lachrymose from the strings

What a lovely tribute--Thank you Cousin Bob McKerrow




08/10/16 05:18 PM #3    

Karen Lyerla

Here's a picture sent to us by Michael's brother, Max and his wife, Vicky.   They live in Perth, Australia. This is a picture of Michael's gravesite in New Zealand. Underneath his name,  it gives his age as 18. The last line says Accidentally Killed March 27, 1967 .

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