JOPLIN, Mo. — Today’s funeral for Corporal Ben Cooper, a tenured officer of the Joplin Police Department, took place inside a basketball arena of all places.
That’s because no local church or funeral home would do.
Funeral services for fallen police officers nationwide are attended by hundreds, if not thousands of people.
Today, it was no different as more than 1,000 showed up to pay their respects to Cpl. Cooper.
Those who attended include law enforcement officers and emergency service employees from all over the four states; many of them traveling hundreds of miles so they could honor their “brother in arms” and pay respect to his family.
Also in attendance were Joplin city employees, as well as the general public: All together, filling much of the Leggett and Platt Athletic Center, located on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.
A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF TODAY’S FUNERAL SERVICE
After the majority of people were ushered to their seats, including out-of-town police, fire and EMS workers, the first group to enter the service, while those already in the crowd stood at attention attention, were those with the Joplin Police Department.
JPD’s entrance was marked by the first sound of bagpipes and drums until they began to fade down to nothing but repetitive taps on the drums.
And then – silence, as the immediate family, relatives and friends of Cpl. Ben Cooper filed in.
That silence, so slightly interrupted by “The Chief’s Honor Guard” who were the last to walk in; first approaching American flag draped casket, and then standing in a straight line while silently saying, “farewell.”
And with that, all in attendance took to their seats at the top of the one-o’clock hour, while an opening song, titled, “Go Rest High on that Mountain” (by Vince Gill) played through.
Sitting in silence during the song, one couldn’t help but to notice all of the beautiful bouquets of flowers, among the many shapes and sizes of plants, all sent in to make a beautiful backdrop behind Cooper’s closed casket.
After the song was over, former Joplin Police Officer Brian Henderson, took to the podium.
Henderson first spoke about why this happened – following up with a comforting response by quoting a verse in Ecclesiastes (a book of wisdom literature in the old testament Bible) and by leading funeral-goers in prayer.
Many couldn’t help but to shed a tear when the next song called “Officer Down,” was played, with lyrics that spoke to all of those in law enforcement and their families.
Reverend John Newberry was next at the podium; first, reading a summary of cooper’s life, printed inside the funeral program for everyone to read (click here to view the obituary).
Rev. Newberry had the following to say during his time in front of those in attendance:
- “He (Cooper) will be loved in Heaven, as we was here on Earth.”
- “Remember that Cooper is never far from us… and to seek out and feel his presence.”
- “At the age of 14, Cooper answered another call – the call to get baptized. Later, he would hear another call, which was to join the army, and then, yet another call; this time to join law enforcement. What a privilege to be able to answer all three calls.”
Joplin Police Chief, Sloan Rowland spoke next about the type of person Cooper was and the sacrifices he made in life:
“Cooper was my trusted friend and colleague. I would often seek out his opinion whenever I needed,” expressed Chief Rowland.
“If he were to be standing here today, he would be very proud of what he would be witnessing here in this place,” Rowland continued.
Joplin Police Officer, Randy Black, got up to speak after the Police Chief.
His time at the podium was short, yet filled with emotion:
“We’ve known each other almost 19 years, and early on we learned that our dads were actually friends before we were. That was what brought us so close.”
After taking a small step back to pause, Black finished up by saying, “I just love my buddy and I’m going to miss him.”
Following the personal remarks made by those four men, a slideshow of various pictures featuring Cpl. Cooper began to play on a large projection screen, as country song, “If I Had Only Known” (by Reba McEntire) played to those in attendance.
As the slideshow of personal pictures from Cpl. Cooper’s life continued, you could hear the sounds of quiet crying, specifically when the next song, titled, “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” (by Justin Moore) played through.
When the slideshow was over, former JPD Officer Brian Henderson took to the podium once more – this time to speak about the life of Ben Cooper – who Henderson called, “Coo”:
- “One of his (Cooper’s) best features was his smile… the very smile we saw in so many of those (slideshow) photos.”
- “I didn’t just consider him a co-worker, I considered him my friend.”
- “When it came down to the job, he had your back, no matter what.”
- “Last Tuesday wasn’t the only sacrifice for Cooper. He lived a life of sacrifice.”
- “I was made a promise by God, and that promise is to see Cooper again in Heaven.”
After Henderson’s remarks, one final song, titled, “When I Get Where I’m Going” (by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton) played to an emotion-filled gathering of funeral-goers, before Police Chief Rowland had a few touching words of advice to say to those with the Joplin Police Department:
- “To my brothers and sisters in the Joplin Police Department, I’m so proud of you. I know it’s a hard time, with difficulties in the weeks ahead but stay strong and stay the course.”
- “To those officers who came from all over, I thank you.”
Chief Rowland had one last thing to say before a prayer would bring the funeral of Joplin Police Corporal, Ben Cooper, to a close.
“To the family (of Cpl. Cooper), no words could take away the pain and suffering, but look to God, and thank you for giving us Ben.”