Cooper died in the outdoors he loved |

Cooper died in the outdoors he loved

A memorial service for Stirling Cooper Jr., who died Saturday from a fall in Lower Black Box Canyon in Utah, will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, at the Inn at Aspen.

Cooper was born Nov. 13, 1960 in Denver to Stirling Merrell and Alice Elizabeth “Liz” Cooper. His father gave him his lifelong love of the outdoors, said Liz Cooper.

“He always loved the outdoors,” she said. “His dad was a school teacher, and we spent every summer in Aspen. He really had a sense of adventure.”

Cooper also had a lifelong love of music, said Liz.

“In his early life he really was very musical,” she said. “He was a good pianist and loved to participate in jazz bands in high school. Later on, his love of the outdoors took more and more of his time.”

Cooper graduated from Arvada High School and with honors from Colorado State University, where he received a degree in electrical engineering and later a master’s degree in business administration.

He and his wife, Jody, first came to Aspen 10 years ago with the intention of being ski bums for a year, said Liz. They lived in a cabin at the family’s resort – Aspen Park Cabins – just east of town.

“They loved it here and just decided to stay on,” said his mother.

During his years in Aspen, Cooper was a mortgage banker with Norwest Bank. He also pursued his love of the outdoors through skiing, biking and mountain climbing, and was involved with youth soccer and basketball programs.

Cooper, 38, died Saturday while canyoneering with one of his sons, Brandon. The two were on a combined hiking, biking and camping trip in the San Rafael River area in Utah. According to police reports, they were riding inner tubes down the river when they came upon some water that was too swift and treacherous for them to navigate.

They were climbing a sheer rock face to get out of the gorge when the accident happened, according to the Emery County Sheriff’s Office. They were about 200 feet, or three-quarters of the way, up the face when Cooper lost his footing and fell into the river.

Brandon was able to complete the climb and return to camp, where he called for help on a cellular phone. Sheriff’s deputies and members of Search and Rescue rappelled down the cliff in an unsuccessful effort to save Cooper.

Cooper is survived by his wife, Jody; sons Brandon and Matthew; father and stepmother, Stirling Cooper Sr. and Valerie, of Glenwood Springs; mother Liz Cooper of Highland Ranch; brothers Chris Cooper of Boulder and Joel McKee of Superior; and father- and mother-in-law, Dwayne and Kay Slocum of Fort Collins.

A reception will follow Thursday’s service. A memorial fund for Cooper’s wife and children has been established at Norwest Bank. Send donations to: 119 S. Mill St., Aspen, CO 81611. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the memorial fund.

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