Obituary: Leon Cooper

Leon Cooper

Malibu resident Leon Cooper, 98, died on Nov. 15. Cooper had lived in Malibu since 1961, and he was active in Malibu environmental quality issues prior to incorporation. As former Malibu Township Council president, Cooper sued LA County, leading to a precedent for requiring an environmental impact statement for zoning decisions that facilitate private commercial development. The property in question remains free of development and is zoned for single-family homes. In other efforts, Cooper participated in the final successful drive for Malibu incorporation in 1991, and fought sewer development and freeway expansion in Malibu that would have spurred much more extensive development. 

Cooper was born on the west side of Chicago on Oct. 23, 1919, to William Wager Cooper Sr. and Raechel Idell (Rossman) Cooper. He graduated from the University of Illinois with an bachelor’s degree in government, finance and accounting.

He met his future wife Alberta Jean Brown while they were both working for the Ann Arbor Municipal League in Michigan; they married on Jan. 31, 1953, at the Highlawn Presbyterian Church in Huntington, West Virginia. 

Later in life and after Alberta’s death in 1994, Cooper developed an interest in assisting the U.S. government’s recovery of World War II military personnel remains lost during battles. Cooper served in the war as a Higgins boat landing craft commander and took part in six major invasions. He returned to the sites of some of these battles, including during the production of documentary “Return To Tarawa: The Leon Cooper Story.” He wrote books about his war experience, including the novel “90 Day Wonder,” and was active in lobbying for congressional support for repatriation of the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers. 

Cooper is survived by five children—Peter Brown Cooper, Lee William Cooper, Jean (Jeannie) Claire Bartoszek, Kathryn (Katie) Irene Cooper, William (Billy) Lawrence Cooper, and six grandchildren—Ruth Eileen Cooper, Cooper Joseph Bartoszek, Jack Fenimore Bartoszek, Izzy Yosepha Kleiman, Caleb William Cooper and Rachel Eileen Cooper. 

Leon Cooper was interred at the Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, privately.  A public memorial service is being arranged.