“This is therapeutic, you know, telling Coop’s story, telling Jake’s story. I mean they were amazing men, you know.”
“You have to think about some of the good times through something so tragic.”
They are the women who call officer Jake Reed and Corporal Ben Cooper their husbands: Roxy Cooper and Bayley Reed.
Their days over the past year — minutes, seconds, really — have been consumed with grief. Questions. Why? How? And yet, they move forward.
“I know that I have gotten through this because of my faith, because I know that coop was good. He believed in god, he knew that Jesus was our savior, and I know that he’s in heaven. And, I mean, there’s no more pain. His waste is run, you know, I mean, he’s in paradise with Jesus, eatin’ ju-ju beans and not gainin’ a pound,” said Roxy.
“I think what helps me get through the day is just trying to incorporate Jake in everything I do. Whether I bring him up in conversation, or we think back about a certain memory, I, you know, oh Jake used to that. So, I try to just bring him into the conversation every second I can,” said Bayley.
Both stay busy.
Roxy, with daughters Ashley and Tiffany. Roxy’s a former Joplin City Jail Senior Sergeant — she met “Coop” at JPD.
Bayley, with work — she’s a dental hygienist, a Missouri Southern alum. That’s where she and Jake met. She’s also been instrumental in establishing a memorial fund — and a scholarship in her husband’s name at MSSU — the first one was awarded in the fall.
In fact, scholarships honoring both men, have been established at MSSU.
There are also memorials — including the bench at the site where things forever changed a year ago.
The police department makes up a huge part of the support system for the Reed and Cooper families. And vice versa.
“I think we get as much support from them as they get from us. It’s, it’s, it’s been great having them around, continuing to see ’em and knowin’ that they gained such a, you know, outstanding family, you know, that will be there forever,” said JPD Chief Sloan Rowland.
“Andy Blair, he stops and checks on me, you know, all the time, and Trevor, Sloan and, and I go to church with Brian Lewis, you know, and it’s just, I have all these guys that are, you know, distracting and tryin’ to check on me,” said Roxy.
“You pass by cars that still have the Joplin Police sticker on it. You pass houses that still have the sign in their front yards, and even businesses that still have the painted artwork and I think for me, something so simple to someone else you don’t know how it affects and our family just appreciates the continued support even still today. And I still feel that as I pass those things,” said Bayley.
They are two strong women. Survivors. Friends.
“She is one of the only people that I feel like truly can understand what I’m going through. I’m very grateful for her friendship that has transpired from it. I just wish it was under different circumstances.”
“She’s stronger, a lot stronger than she thinks. And I tell her all the time that, you know, we are forever linked.”
And, in a way, linked before ever even meeting.
When Ben Cooper started at JPD in 2003, his radio number was 270. He left for a few years, came back and got a new one; 222.
Jake Reed’s radio number — 270. By the way, no one else will ever have those numbers at JPD.
Jake’s signature is something his mother, Melissa, proudly has tattooed on her arm. His smile — oh that smile.
“He always gave me a hard time, just knowing I’m in the dental field, he’s like I have better teeth than you. I’m like ok, thanks, you know. I would, I would say so, too, no, but his smile is one of the best things about him. And I anybody, it’s a unanimous answer that if you think of Jake, it’s his smile and his laugh,” said Bayley.
“His eyes definitely got me. His smile was amazing. But his eyes, we always talked about his eyes, and he was always proud of his blue eyes,” said Roxy.
Proud. It’s the perfect word to describe how two wives, two families, and an entire police family are of two men.
Two, as Roxy put it, amazing men.
“Would coop want all the hoopla? No. But I want to do it for him. I want to do it for him. I want him to be remember forever. And, and Jake and Tim Nielson, all the officers, all the K9s. They paid the ultimate sacrifice for us, so it’s the least that we can do is to never let their names go cold,” said Roxy.
“I hope everybody just always remembers that they are heroes,” said Bayley.