Dr. Donald Thomas “Tom” Cooper, 77, of Elizabeth, MS, passed away on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, after a lengthy illness. Mr. Cooper requested that his body be donated for scientific research to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The family will have a memorial service on Sunday, July 22, at Boone Funeral Home in Leland. Visitation will be from 2:00 to 3:00 with service to begin at 3:00.
Tom was born December 1, 1940, in Putnam County, Indiana to Charles Emmett Cooper and Elsie Jackson Cooper. He spent his youth on the family farm in Cloverdale, Indiana, before heading to Purdue University to pursue a degree in Agronomy. After marrying and starting a family, he continued his education at North Carolina State University where he received his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Crop Science with an emphasis on Cytogenetics. In 1971 he moved his growing family to Leland, Mississippi, when he accepted a position in Stoneville as a Hardwood Geneticist for the U.S. Forest Service. During this time he became a leading authority on the cottonwood tree in the southern states. He was also a cooperating scientist with forestry research projects in Pakistan and Yugoslavia and an adjunct professor at Mississippi State University.
He left Stoneville in 1982 when his entrepreneurial spirit and his green thumb got the best of him. This change would lead to the creation of a 70 acre truck farm where people came from miles around to buy his vegetables. Craving a slower pace later in life led him to leave vegetables behind in exchange for landscape plants and the development of Cooper’s Nursery. He and his wife, Sue, helped people from around the Delta select the perfect plants for the perfect spot at the perfect price. He loved his customers almost as much as he loved his plants.
He will be remembered for his generosity, his memory of details, his endless lists, his incredible knowledge of any subject, his quirky sense of humor, his inability to throw anything away, his love for watching things grow, and his love for cats and dogs.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Charles Emmett Cooper and Elsie Jackson Cooper, his brothers William and Robert Cooper, and a grandson, Thomas Ryan Evans. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Sharon “Sue” Hawkins Cooper. He is also survived by his four daughters; Donna (Kenny) Mabus, of Brandon, Mississippi, Cheryl (Sean) Prewett, of Hernando, Mississippi, Becky (Andy) Null, of Corinth, Mississippi, and Angela (Stacy) Trippe of Flowood, Mississippi; an extra special “adopted into the family” kind of son, Robert “LC” Lumpkin; grandchildren, Megan Evans, Jonathon (Alecia) Cooper, Madison Nabors, Abby (Taylor) Smith, Lily Null, Eli Null, and Holden Trippe; great-grandchildren, Lacey Johnson, Kelcey Johnson, Tucker Cooper, and Parker Cooper. He is also survived by his sister, Charlotte Cooper, of Greenville, Mississippi, and his brother, Andy (Kathy) Cooper of Terre Haute, Indiana.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that you support the Animal Relief and Rescue Foundation because Mr. Cooper loved his 4 legged creatures. Donations can be made to: ARRF, PO Box 66, Leland, MS 38756 or a charity of your choice.