Gerald "Jerry" CooperSeptember 7, 1937 ~ May 4, 2017 (age 79)
Gerald Cooper passed away peacefully in his home in Merced on Thursday, May 4th. He was lovingly known to his family and friends as “Jerry or Jer” and to his grandchildren “Bumpa”. If family could have made time stand still that evening as they surrounded him in love, they would have. Their great loss was Heaven’s gain! Gerald was born in Krum, Texas, in September of 1937 to Raymond and Ozella Cooper. Soon after his birth, young Gerald’s mother moved him and his two older brothers, Charles and Robert, to California. In 1939, his mother met and married Joseph Silva, a prominent farmer in the community of El Nido. The Silvas made their home in El Nido and had two more children: sister Joanne and brother Eddie.
Growing up in this community provided a unique opportunity for Gerald to attend school with siblings in a one-room schoolhouse, while working alongside them at the farm with Joe. As a result, they grew up to be a close-knit family. The Cooper/ Silva family quickly became a well-known and respected name in the community and remains so today. In 1955, just before his 18th birthday, Gerald left the family farm and enlisted into the US Navy serving a three-year term as a Engine Aircraft Mechanic stationed mostly in Japan. He chose not to reenlist and returned to El Nido -- but not to the farm. Instead, he went into business for himself operating the local Union 76 gas station in the heart of El Nido. It was during that time, in the summer of 1958, that he met the love of his life, Nalda Pierini, a beautiful Italian from Dos Palos. They eloped in ‘59 and they began their happy life together; they were the proud parents of Ronda and Rod.
While establishing his own roots in El Nido over those years, Jerry played fast-pitch softball, coached little league baseball, served as an El Nido Volunteer Fireman, and was a member of the El Nido Lion’s Club. He was a trusted businessman in the community and was well loved by all. In 1978, he moved his business to the Hwy 152 Red Top Ranch Chevron where he operated for 20 years. Then, prior to retiring in 2002, he worked for Central Valley Propane in Merced. During their time in El Nido, Jerry and Nalda made lifelong friends while keeping close family bonds with the extended family. Locals enjoyed Jerry’s station as their prime hangout to shoot the breeze or play a hand of Pinochle every afternoon. He especially enjoyed parties at the El Nido Recreational Hall, picnics at the local firehouse, and family reunions. Even though they moved into Merced in 2014, their El Nido roots were deep and Jerry’s love for El Nido never dimmed. He was the only son who didn’t farm, yet he had a heart for that community in which he lived for over 70 years.
One of his most favorite things to do late in life was to take a drive to El Nido with his oldest brother Charles and check in on Eddie and the farm. Jerry was known for being a great husband, father, and grandfather. He had a kind, generous heart, a gentle and quiet spirit, and a strong work ethic. He loved hunting and fishing and was especially passionate about his team sports - especially his Giants baseball, Raiders football, and Warriors basketball. He also loved attending sporting events and other activities of his children and grandchildren. He loved to travel with his wife and enjoyed many trips to his brother’s cabin, a cross-country road-trip, and cruises with siblings and friends; the highlight of his travel was a 50th anniversary cruise and a week at Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii with his two children and their families and all the grandchildren. Later years limited his travel to the family’s annual week in Rio Del Mar/ Santa Cruz - a family tradition that began over 50 years ago that still goes on today. Above all there was nothing he loved more than spending time with his precious wife and family -- as long as there was a game on TV!
He is preceded in death by his father Raymond Cooper, mother Ozella Silva, stepfather Joseph Silva, step-mother Marie Cooper, sister-in-law Eva Pierini and granddaughter Emily Cooper. He is survived by his beloved wife, Nalda of Merced; Daughter Ronda (and Rod) Douglas of Merced, and son Rod (and Natalie) Cooper of San Jose; honorary daughter Karen (Burrows) Milne, and grandchildren Sarah (Brian), Matthew (Cari), Laura, Jonathan (Lauren), Eric (Elizabeth), Benjamin, Ryan (and Brianna), Rachael, Katie and 13 greatgrandchildren. He also leaves behind his brothers Charles (Jan) Cooper, Robert (Shirley) Cooper, Richard (Jane) Cooper, son of Raymond; Eddie (Nancy) Silva, sister Joanne (George) Chester, step-sister Barbara Silva, Nalda’s brother Ronnie Pierini and countless cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
A memorial service celebrating Jerry’s life will be held at Central Presbyterian Church at 1920 Canal Street, Merced, on Monday, May 15, at 3:00 pm. A private family graveside service with military honors provided by the US Navy will be held at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella prior to the memorial. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Junior Giants Baseball @ sanfrancisco.giants. mlb.com giving at-risk children a meaningful partnership in a community-based organization.