Nellie Jane Lee was born September 28, 1918 in Fairview, Indiana in Switzerland County to John and Nellie (Gibbs) Lee. She grew up on their nearby family dairy farm on what is now called the Nell Lee Road.
She was part of a large family consisting of brothers: Edwin, Grant, Archie, John, & Kenneth; and sisters: Pauline Long, Ruth Demit, Hazel Lee, Mary Rochat, Opal Boats, Helen Cooper, Beulah Nave, Ann Lee, & Bonnie Bliss.
Nellie graduated from Vevay High School in 1936. After high school she attended Hanover College and the Indiana State Teachers College. In 1941 she earned a lifetime Kindergarten through 12th Grade Indiana Teaching License. She later returned to Hanover and completed a Bachelor of Science in English in 1944.
She taught various grades at the Cass-Union Consolidated School, in Ohio County, Indiana. While living in Ohio County, she attended the local Methodist Church. There she met a young preacher, Lawrence D. Cooper. After a short courtship, they were married on March 27, 1942 in nearby Burlington, Kentucky. Nellie and Lawrence were married for over 65-years until his death in 2007.
During their marriage, Nellie was truly Lawrence’s partner not only in life but in his (their) ministry. She was the consummate “preacher’s wife.” She labored as his chief of staff. She was a key point of contact and gatekeeper for those contacting him. She provided oversight and guidance to critical projects serving as his most valued advisor. She was a sounding board for his sermons and organized his notes and thoughts into executable outlines. Nellie was also an innate leader serving in critical roles in every one of their churches. She was editor in chief of newsletters and bulletins. She taught all levels of Sunday School and led both youth and adult groups and clubs. Her work-ethic and dedication was second to none.
After 16-years of marriage they had one son, Stephen Philip Cooper. In 1980 she gained an ideal daughter-in-law, Patricia (Pat) Sweeney Cooper, and over the next several years he she became a very-proud grandmother of three wonderful kids: Lawrence Thomas Cooper, Logan Patrick Cooper, and Larkin Elizabeth Nellie Cooper. Pat was Nellie’s foremost friend and caregiver after Lawrence’s death.
For over 70-years Nellie has been a member of the Rising Sun, Indiana Chapter 326 of the Order of the Eastern Star.
Nellie and Lawrence rarely took a day off when they shouldered the responsibility of a church. This was so ingrained that she continued that practice in retirement. After they retired nearly 35-years ago, Nellie has lived in rural Hancock County, Indiana. She remained active with books, gardening, grandchildren, family, friends, and pets.
Nellie died peacefully on July 21, 2017 just short of 99-years old after a brief bout with pneumonia. She will be buried in the Eden Cemetery adjacent to the Eden United Methodist Church in Eden, Indiana next to husband, Lawrence. She will be deeply missed by her family and friends.
Friends may visit from 4:00pm to 8:00pm on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at the Stillinger Family Funeral Home, 1780 West Main Street, in Greenfield, Indiana. A funeral service will be held at 10:00am on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at Eden United Methodist Church, 2122 East Eden Road, in Eden, Indiana. Burial will follow the service at Eden Cemetery. She would appreciate memorial gifts made the Eden United Methodist Church.
Friends may share memories and condolences online at www.stillingerfamily.com