Dr. Donald Dwight Cooper, 89, Towson pediatrician, World War II medical officer

November 19, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. Donald Dwight Cooper, a Towson pediatrician and World War II medical officer who witnessed the formal Japanese surrender, died of congestive heart failure Saturday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. He was 89.

Born in Glyndon, he was the son of Clarence G. Cooper, superintendent of Baltimore County schools for 26 years. He attended the old Demonstration School at what was then the State Normal School in Towson.

He was president of the Class of 1931 at Towson High School, where he ran track and played lacrosse. He earned a degree from the Johns Hopkins University and graduated from University of Maryland School of Medicine. He did his internship and residency at what is now Mercy Medical Center.

In 1940, the year he established his medical practice in the Victorian home of his parents on Burke Avenue, Dr. Cooper married Margaret Matthews. He also joined the Army in 1940 and became chief of medical service for the hospital at Shaw Army Air Field in Sumter, S.C.

Later sent to the Pacific as chief medical officer and flight surgeon for an Air Force squadron, Dr. Cooper was involved in the Leyte Gulf, Luzon, Okinawa and Western Pacific aerial war campaigns and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. Assigned to the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, he was present on the battleship USS Missouri for the signing of the Japanese surrender.

"General MacArthur always called him `the kid,'" Mrs. Cooper said yesterday. "He was so much younger than the general, who liked him and got him a good seat for the signing."

After additional pediatric training at Union Memorial Hospital and the old Sydenham Hospital, an institution in East Baltimore that treated contagious diseases, Dr. Cooper resumed practice on Burke Avenue -- with Mrs. Cooper as his office assistant -- until his 1980 retirement.

"He never had children of his own, but he took care of our little babies like they were his own," said Anna "Bobbie" Radebaugh, a mother of five who lived near Dr. Cooper. "Our family had a lot of croup, and he would come by and visit twice a night. He was an amazing, old-time doctor."

Friends recalled him as an immaculate dresser who treated patients while he was wearing a shirt, tie and sport jacket.

"He never wore a white coat because he felt it intimidated children," said Mary Katherine Sheeler, an attorney who named one of her three sons after Dr. Cooper. "When you had an appointment, you never waited. I don't know how they kept to such a good schedule."

"During the polio inoculations of 1955, we had a line of children and parents going out the front door," Mrs. Cooper said. "It was so busy we sent them home through the kitchen door."

Dr. Cooper regularly used lollipops for tongue depressors. He also sent siblings of a child who was about to get an injection to the garden to gather walnuts from his trees so they would not witness any tears.

He was also an accomplished gardener who tended 40 tomato plants and gave parents fresh tomatoes in season.

Friends said he made frequent house calls and often saw patients on Saturdays and Sundays.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the chapel at Goucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road in Towson.

Survivors also include a sister, Dorothy Sartorius of Cockeysville, and nieces and nephews.

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