Gunsite Academy Co-Founder Janelle Cooper Passes Away

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posted on August 8, 2019
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Janelle Cooper, who co-founded Gunsite Academy in 1976 with her late husband, Col. Jeff Cooper, died July 28, 2019. She was 99 years old.

Mrs. Cooper was born in Los Angeles in 1920 to Jasper Glenn Marks and Florence Pixley Marks, the second of their two children. During her junior year at Stanford University she met Jeff Cooper and in February of 1942, just before her graduation, they eloped.

He was a former ROTC-student and second lieutenant in U.S. Marine Corps at the time, and soon deployed to the Pacific during World War II. After the war he briefly left the service, but was called back to active duty for clandestine operations during the Korean Conflict. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

The pair made Big Bear, CA, home after he was out of the military, where they raised three daughters. In 1975, the couple moved to 200 acres near Paulden, AZ, just outside Prescott, and established the American Pistol Institute that would become today’s famed Gunsite Academy.

Mrs. Cooper was a fixture at the facility, and her brownies, lemonade and tea gatherings for graduates of the 250 Pistol Course grew in legend, even after her husband’s death in 2006.

Ken Campbell, chief operating officer of Gunsite Academy, said in his eulogy, “If I take nothing else away from my many life lessons learned from my visits with Mrs. Cooper, it is summed up in this message I received: ‘After being around Jeff you left thinking: Wow, he is something special. After being around Janelle, you left thinking: Wow, she thinks I’m something special.”

Mrs. Cooper celebrated her 99th birthday at Gunsite in May with a family celebration in the Gunsite Classroom “Revelation.” She now rests by her husband’s side in a mausoleum on the ranch.

“The teachings of the Coopers, the way they lived their lives to the fullest, will live on with free men and women. As long as free men bear arms, they will be remembered,” Campbell summarized during the memorial.

A public memorial service is scheduled for Saturday Sept. 28, 2019, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Prescott, AZ.

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