A wonderful Anzac Day story from Bill.
Well we have found medals in boxes, tin trunks, in the roof of houses being renovated, sewing boxes, but the search for the next of kin of LT John Eugene Cooper set a new standard, and a new puzzle, as yet unanswered..
Here it started with a Baxter (Vic.) auto wreckers, where when the carpet was removed wreckers found the 1939-1945 War Medal of LT John Eugene Cooper, no other medals just the 1939-1945 War Medal. Not knowing what to do with it they approached Fred Wawrzil, the Secretary of the Euroa RSL.
Fred immediately started to look for LT Cooper, or at least his NOK, unfortunately by the time the medal came to Fred the car had been demolished, and any records lost as to its origins, however not to be put off he hit the phone, and as he tells it he believes he rang every Cooper in the Frankston, Baxter region, currently dreading the next phone bill all he can report is that there are a lot of Coopers in the phone book but to none seemed to be the one he wanted.
Finally after contacting the Victorian Branch HQ of the RSL he ended up with me, and the next phase of the search began.
It was amazing at first how much I was able to find via TROVE about John Cooper, who was not only an accomplished musician, as was his wife they played concerts all over Australia, but was one of Australia’s foremost Physiotherapists, who treated the wounded in New Guinea during World War two, and later after the war he became an accomplished Artist. But just as I thought I was getting close to the end of the search, all mention of John ceased in the newspapers (TROVE), yet War Graves had his death as occurring on the 20th March 1977, where had he gone. So now it was back almost to the beginning, as I started to map out John’s family and his siblings, Daniel, Arthur and Gilbert.
Arthur and Gilbert soon petered out, leaving me with Daniel. It was the help of Yuki, and a long slog via TROVE through The Argus newspaper that I finally found a series of references to the birth of Daniel and his wife’s children. Then it was the Electoral office, and for a pleasant change a quick search brought me to Daniel's son Jack. A quick phone call after returning home and I was speaking to Jack, what was just as important he had the phone number of John Cooper’s son, Thomas.
It was there that the search finished, but not before a long conversation, brought to the fore the reason I had not been able to find John Cooper.
“Dad” explained Thomas, “dropped using John, in 1950 he switched to using Eugene as his preferred name”.
So I went back to check my research notes only using Eugene Cooper. When I next spoke to Thomas it was to tell he was wrong, his father had been using Eugene as his preferred name before the war, he had only gone back to the John part to enlist.
When I reported back to Fred, I found myself in agreement with his lament concerning lost medals and that he wished he had known of us at Lost Medals Australia, earlier.
Now the unanswered question, how did the medal get under the carpet? To which I can only add “Good question that”.
Lt Copper is marked as number 2 in this photo.
Lt Cooper is the third officer in from the right standing.
The returned medal tally is now 1270.