A heart for the mountains, inside and out

Frank Cooley
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Frank Cooley
MEEKER I The recent Memorial Day wreath presentation at Highland Cemetery was beautiful. From the perfectly groomed grounds to the remarkable people involved, it is a special event every year. The sights and sounds of the day in Meeker are unforgettable, from Tom Allen playing taps to Frank Cooley, a man who has been so much a part of Meeker for 57 years, walking so proudly with the veterans.
Frank was born in Manhattan Island in 1923, the only child of an Ohio native who moved to New York for excitement; and a beautiful artist born in Norway who relocated to New York City. The two lived in New York and then moved to Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, N.Y., so their son Frank could have the benefits of country life and a good school. Frank’s mother passed away when he was 10 and his father raised him in the suburbs, particularly Bronxville. Bronxville had, and still has, great schools. Frank said, “The schools affected my life in many ways.”
The second major influence on Frank’s life was snow skiing. The 1931 Lake Placid Winter Olympics lit a fire in him for the sport. His first ski run occurred on the fifth floor of the Spaulding Brothers Sporting Goods store on Fifth Avenue. The store had installed a wooden, carpet-covered ramp coated in borax detergent.
Frank was determined to go to college in Colorado because of the snow. This was during the Depression and Frank’s “remarkable principal” suggested he could not afford Colorado College but should enroll in The University of Colorado instead.
The day he arrived in Boulder, the Navy opened an ROTC program for 100 cadets and Frank signed up. During the war, the Navy needed thousands of officers for amphibious units. NROTC students were sent to serve on naval vessels, primarily in the Pacific.
Because of Frank’s rigorous high school training, he was sent to a variety of advanced naval schools including Fleet Sound School at Key West, Fla., and Secret C.I.C. School at Hollywood Beach, Fla. and was flown by China Clipper to join the U.S.S. Grady (D.E. 445) in the Philippines. From there they went to Iwo Jima where on the fourth day of the invasion, they saw the little flag go up on Suribachi (the big flag went up five hours later). Following this they went to the South Pacific to Esperito Santo and took the 27th division to Okinawa where they joined the suicide line for nearly three months guarding the invasion from kamikaze attacks.
On his discharge from the U.S. Navy, Frank knew he would return to Boulder. He finished college under the GI Bill and elected for a degree in geology. He took the examination for the U.S. Geological Survey, and due to his high school and college training, he was hired by the USGS in the fuels section in Denver. He worked on the Front Range but his most wonderful job was mapping the Flat Tops. He worked out of Glenwood Springs and took five horses, two saddle horses and three pack horses every Monday morning. One night while camping two cowboys came into his camp with about 60 horses, Frank insisted on feeding the cowboys dinner and breakfast. He later discovered the two men were Dean Parr and Bailey Cotton.
Frank learned a professor could arrange for him to complete law school at the University of Colorado with a more generous program than the GI Bill due to his service-related disability. He completed three years of law school with a class comprised mostly of distinguished veterans, many of whom became noted judges and attorneys.
After law school, he became a land man with Mobil Oil in Canada and Wall Street before returning to Colorado. In 1955 he and his wife Lynn left Denver and began ta law practice in Meeker. Lynn worked in the county clerk’s office before teaching in the middle school. Frank said, “We could not have lived without her income and hard work.” Frank has two children, Andrew (Terri) Cooley of Fort Collins and Karen of Tacoma, Wash., whose house overlooks Puget Sound. Cooley has one grandchild, Micaela, who graduated from the University of Puget Sound.
Frank has retired now, except for geological consultations. He has a large collection of geologic reports going back to the earliest surveys in the 1850s. He continues to be ebullient and content with his life in Meeker. He has enjoyed 57 years of comradeship in the Meeker Lions Club and the St. James Episcopal Church has been a cornerstone of his life.
When asked what has changed in Meeker in 57 years, Frank said, “The most significant and remarkable facet of Meeker is that it has changed so little. It is a friendly and close society, there is somewhat less ranch activity but overall that aspect of life has continued.”
There have been three key factors that have shaped Frank’s life along the way, the suburb Bronxville schools, snow skiing, and the geology program at Boulder. He is absolutely brilliant and a conversation with him reveals a need for much more time to simply touch the tip of the iceberg of his knowledge. He is an intriguing, intensely-read individual with a history matched only by his desire to learn.