Spring 2015

Nature Guide

David Cooper, ’56, has remade himself at a southern latitude

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A retired neurosurgeon, Cooper now leads public trail hikes. Photo: Brian Tietz

Some guys retire to Florida and spend their days watching the sun drop into the ocean beyond the palm trees. David Cooper, ’56, is cut from different cloth. He slaps on his hat and ducks out the door, making the rounds of a nearby 60,000-acre nature preserve and taking careful stock of “botany, snakes, birds, butterflies—everything that’s out there.” Cooper, a former neurosurgeon from upstate New York, lives in a condo near Ft. Myers and volunteers his time leading public trail hikes through the marsh several times a month.

“I had 14 people out there this morning for three hours in the field,” he relates. “Yesterday I went for a four-mile walk.” That’s a pretty fit daily regimen for a man who’s 83 years old, but Cooper sees the trekking around as no big deal—something like the way he describes his overall passion for the natural world. “For many years, I’ve been interested in birds,” he suggests, with a kind of verbal shrug. “One thing leads to another.” These days he’s a Certified Florida Naturalist, the perfect embodiment of a savvy, approachable and entertaining guide.

Widowed from Sandra, his beloved wife of 50-plus years, and still adapting to life alone (“I prefer company,” he offers when asked how things are going), Cooper has remade himself at a southern latitude. “This is a second career, and I love it immensely—almost as much as practicing medicine,” he says. —Bruce Morgan

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