Estelle Cooper attributes her long and happy life to a strong faith in the Lord.
She said she tries to abide by the words of her favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Yesterday, March 27, Cooper celebrated her 99th birthday, and a party in her honor will be held at Carrollton Baptist Church on Sunday, March 31, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in the East Fellowship Hall.
Although she doesn’t get around like she used to without the help of a wheelchair and she doesn’t get to drive herself around town anymore, Cooper remains active – keeping much of the same routine she always has. She visits the beauty shop every week, and on Thursdays, she referees domino play at Carrollton Baptist. She loves working puzzles, and she loves being driven around the county remembering how it was back in the day.
Born in 1920 on a farm located in the Four Forks community, “going toward Malmaison,” Cooper’s childhood home still stands and remains in the Campbell family. It is now known as the Campbell Cottage, and it was featured on the Carrollton Pilgrimage last fall.
She was the second of six children, and she was extremely close to her sisters. Her oldest sister, Evelyn, was just 19 months older than she, and the two were more like twins, according to Cooper’s daughter, Linda Perkins. Evelyn Campbell succumbed to rheumatic fever at a young age.
Of the six children, Cooper and two sisters, Mary Moore of Carrollton and Sadie Lee Mann of Jackson, remain.
Perkins said the Campbell women get their longevity from Cooper’s maternal family, the Haleys. Cooper’s mother, known as Momma Campbell, lived to be 93.
“[Growing up back then] wasn’t much different than growing up today,” Cooper said. “Everyone in the family worked.”
Her father worked as a carpenter, and farm work was left to his wife and children. Cooper said her role on the farm was general household chores and taking care of her younger siblings.
“I became the one that took care of the little ones,” Cooper remembered.
Cooper and her siblings attended school in North Carrollton. The school was known as North Carrollton High School and then J.Z. George, and Cooper graduated from J.Z. George. She went on to Draughn’s Business College in Greenwood where she learned secretarial work and bookkeeping.
“My sister and I went together and work and bookkeeping.
“My sister and I went together and rode the train,” Cooper said. “It was the C&G Railroad, and we called it the ‘Chug and Grunt.’”
Cooper said it took them two hours to get to Greenwood by train.
After business college, Cooper was hired as secretary for Mr. Speight, the county agent of Carroll County. She met her future husband at that office.
Richard Cooper, known as Bill to most, was a native of Charleston. He graduated from Copiah-Lincoln Community College and then Mississippi State University. He came to Carrollton when he was hired as assistant county agent to Mr. Speight. He spent his entire career in Carroll County, eventually replacing Mr. Speight as county agent, serving in that capacity for 37 years.
The Coopers married in 1940, and they settled in Carrollton. In 1951, the couple purchased the Fox-Birmingham farm located on Winona Road on the outskirts of North Carrollton. Perkins said when she was growing up there, they lived out in the country, but as the years went by, the rolling farmland surrounding the house became dotted with houses.
“When they bought the farm it was 320 acres,” Perkins said. “Daddy would lease some land, and he eventually bought it, making 525 acres.”
Cooper said when she and her husband bought the farm, “we didn’t have any money, but we had some friends. Will Neal at Peoples Bank lent us the money.”
Cooper said she loved her new home and told her husband she wasn’t moving again.
“The last time we moved, I told Bill if he moved again, he was going to move without me,” Cooper said.
The farm was close enough to North Carrollton that Cooper could walk to the shops if she needed, and her husband had plenty of land to raise cattle and pigs and grow row crops. He even had some acres of timber.
“Bill would come home and work until he couldn’t see,” Cooper said.
She said her husband would look after the livestock, and she would tend the kitchen garden where she grew “snack food,” peanuts and popcorn.
Seven years after the Coopers married, they welcomed daughter Linda, and Cooper stayed home with her baby on and off until Linda went to school.
“She was fun,” Cooper remembered. “She was no trouble.”
Cooper called her daughter her “assistant gardener,” and remembered Perkins plucking every unopened daffodil bloom from the bed on the west side of the house.
“I had to wait another year to find out what color they were,” Cooper said.
Over the years, Cooper worked at various offices around Carrollton and North Carrollton. She worked at the post office, as a bookkeeper for Peoples Bank and Trust, and at J.Z. George High School.
During her tenure as the secretary at J.Z. George High School, the school burned. Cooper remembered being out of school for summer break, when she saw smoke rising from the direction of the school. She said she drove out into the field to find her husband and tell him the school was on fire, and she headed to the scene to assist in any way she could.
Perkins remembered seeing her mother running into the burning building from the front seat of her babysitter’s car.
“Momma was going back into the building to get the records,” Perkins remembered.
Cooper responded, “And I got all the records out.”
As a member of the community, Cooper has been active all of her adult life. She is a lifetime member of the Cherokee Rose Garden Club, taught every age in Sunday School, and sang in the church choir for 60 years.
“Momma is the oldest member of Carrollton Baptist Church,” Perkins said.