Shoe Biz Profile - April 1998


Originally Written by Jeanette Claas

Our spotlight shines upon a man who's face is familiar to all who has been in the horseshoe circuit for anytime. He is everywhere, always spending his time doing what he can do to make this favorite sport of ours a better game for all of us. He's a talented and competitive man who has overcome many obstacles in his lifetime.

We're talking about an immigrant here, from foreign soil south of Missouri, better known as Clinton County, Arkansas that is! Just like Abraham Lincoln, Elwyn Cooper, was born in a log cabin, August 10, 1933 on a farm in Fulton County. From a large family os eight children (7 boys, one girl), he grew up in hard times. Cooking and winter heating was by wood stoves and water carried in buckets from the foot of the hill. In the fifties a pump was installed in the house! Running Water! Until 1948 when electricity was brought into the house, all homework was done under the coal oil lamp. About the same time, they purchased their first automobile. There was no TV, but Elwyn loved listening to his favorite radio shows: Amos & Andy, The Lone Ranger, Sky King, etc.

The farm was located two miles from the school bus stop. After the morning chores were completed, Elwyn walked the two miles daily back and forth from Grade 1 thru Grade 12. Since they couldn't afford the 15 cents for hot lunches, his mother prepared their lunches and packed them in an empty lard bucket. (Lard was the oleo of the day!) They always had enough to eat and clothes on their backs even if they bore patches. She cleaned these clothes on the old rub board using homemade lye soap. But they were rich in many ways.

Elwyn was on his school's basketball team from 7th grade thru high school. After he graduated from Viola High School, he tried out for a basketball scholarship at Beebe Junior College (now a division of Arkansas State University). He was offered and accepted the 1952 scholarship to play basketball. Just as life was going his way, tragedy struck. Several weeks after entering college he and five of his basketball teammates had been out for the evening when on their way back to the dorm they were in an automobile accident killing two of the boys and leaving Elwyn with serious injuries. He suffered a compound fracture of the right wrist, a dislocated left hip and fractured pelvis. While in the hospital and after an unsuccessful attempt to set the hip, he took double pneumonia and was in critical condition for a time. After three months of hospitalization, Elwyn was sent home to recouperate, missing the first year of college, learning to live with a nightmare that shattered his dreams of playing basketball.

He started back to college the next year. After completing junior college he taught school one year in Salem, Arkansas, In the fall of 1956 Elwyn graduated from Arkansas State at Jonesboro with a major in mathematics and a minor in science toward a teaching degree (BSE).

He met his wife, Katie, in Jonesboro and married in November, 1957, moving to Kansas City, MO that same year. Elwyn and Katie had six children. The first two (a boy and a girl) were too premature to survive. Four daughters followed. Katie died in 1988 from breast cancer. Elwyn now enjoys six grandchildren. His family all live nearby and are a joy to him. Elwyn spent most of his working life as a pricing analyst for the Yellow Freight System which he retired from in 1991.

As a young boy, Elwyn and his brothers pitched horseshoes, using the real worn-out shoes from the farm horses. As he grew older he and his brothers continued pitching horseshoes in the backyard. Life begins at 40 and it was about this time that Elwyn decided he needed a little more exercise than mowing the lawn. He began to look for some organized horseshoes. The year was 1974. He contacted the AAU and they gave him the name of Harry Strohm of Kansas City who had some horseshoe dealings with that organization. The invited Elwyn to come down and pitch a few shoes. In the spring of 1975 Elwyn joined the Heart of America Club and has been a NHPA member for the past 22 years. In fact, Elwyn was President of the club for 18 years stepping down in 1997. Elwyn and his partner won the league that summer (1975) and has not won it since. (For those of you that are intimidated by league pitchers you observe - thinking that you can't compete - think again! That is what makes the handicapping league play so great!)

In 1978 Elwyn decided to give the World Tournament a try as it was being held in Des Moines, IA. To his surprise he qualified high enough to make the Men's Championship Class and was privileged to pitch against some of the best, including the great Elmer Hohl. (Elmer got off to a bad start and was down 7-0 when Elwyn asked Smitty and Griffle to take a picture of the scoreboard. Final score was Hohl 50, Cooper 7.) Elwyn has attended every WT since 1978.

Elwyn met his long time friend, Charlie Killgore through horseshoes and the two of them have traveled to many tournaments since the late 70's. Charlie has been his Missouri idol.

Elwyn pitches Allen's and Deadeye Clydesdale shoes and throws a 1 1/4 or 1 3/4 turn. Elwyn has made some remarkable achievements in his horseshoe career. He has never won a State title, but was second in 1987. He has managed to pitch one perfect game in his lifetime. His highest tournament ringer percentage - 77%.

"Coop" has only won one game from Alan Francis. That was a 30 shoe qualifying game at the American Royal Tournament; he had to throw 26 ringers to win. He has had an occasional win over some of those dreaded 30 footers of MO such as Rector, Harris and Winston.

Coop has pitched in the Championship Men's Division at the WT five times. He finished 14th in 1988 with an average of 72% plus. The last three years he pitched in the Championship Senior Division. He has had world tourney wins over world champions; Kevin Cone, Dale Lipovsky, Mark Siebold and Walter Ray Williams, Jr.

Elwyn was honored in 1993 being inducted into the MO Horseshoe Hall of Fame. He is MO's NHPA Regional Director and at the WT in Gillette, WY, Elwyn was chosen the 1996 Regional Director of the Year (The Gene and Mary Van Sant Award). He was also MO Player of the Year in 1992 and 1996.

Unlike Abraham Lincoln, Elwyn did not grow up to be President of the United States; but he did grow up to be President of the Heart of America Horseshoe Club for 18 years. And who's to say which job was the hardest, the most fulfilling and paid the least amount of money? What can one say about a man who dedicated 18 years of his life promoting our favorite sport?

Future plans? "Stay healthy, pitch some shoes and try to help my fellow man!" "Coop" has been helping his fellow man all his life both on and off the courts. Missouri Horseshoe members salute this Arkansas immigrant for who he is, what he does, and how he does it!!!