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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Doc Cooper's place

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gary and Sandra Beck are the new owners of a Thayer landmark referred to by many as Old Doc Cooper's place. Photo by Steven Looney
For many years, the big two story white house at the corner of Fourth and Chestnut in Thayer, has been known as Doc Cooper's house.

Now new owners Gary and Sandra Beck, have a very long legacy to maintain and uphold.

The house was built in the late 1890s by Myrtice Cooper's father C.E. Davis.

The Davis family owned and operated a mercantile business in the building on the corner of second and Chestnut, which later became the Beck Theater.

Davis was also one of the founding fathers of the Bank of Thayer.

Myrtice (Davis) Cooper was born and raised in the house, and lived in the house her entire life, except for a few months after her marriage to Dr. Claude W. Cooper.

After completing his college education, Doc Cooper performed his internship in New York, before returning to Thayer to start his practice.

Dr. Cooper was known throughout the entire area of south central Missouri and north central Arkansas as one of those "Ole Country Doctors."

Establishing an office on Chestnut Street, Doc Cooper would see patients in the office, then travel country back roads to see patients who were bed ridden or unable to make the trip into town.

On occasion, Myrtice Cooper said, she would travel with her husband to the far out-lying reaches of the area.

There were occasions when rains made the back roads impassable, and a local farmer had to use a team of horses to pull the car out of the mud or through a swollen low water creek.

Due to the distance they had to travel and sometimes the condition of a patient, the Coopers would sometimes stay overnight in the patient's home.

Doc Cooper delivered an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 babies in Oregon, Howell, Shannon, Izard and Sharp counties, during his career.

The Cooper Drug Store, next to the doctor's office on Chestnut Street, was established to benefit the doctor's patients and also offered a soda fountain, serving fountain drinks, malts, shakes, floats and sundaes.

The time of house calls passed, and the Cooper house on Chestnut became not only the family residence but an after hours clinic.

Local residents could call or just knock on the back door.

For a fee of next to nothing, Doc Cooper would tend to bumps, breaks, brusies, aches, pains, strains, rashes and fevers, administering a variety of medication, ointments and pills, all with a calm reassuring southern drawl and a pat on the back.

The two-story frame house with a partial basement was quite an undertaking for the time period.

As time passed and indoor plumbing was established, the bathroom was added and plumbing ran to the kitchen on the ground level.

The invention of electricity added lights for the kitchen and bedrooms on the second floor.

The 16-foot high ceilings were accented with modest, yet elegant, chandeliers to light the living room, master bedroom and formal dining room on the ground floor.

A narrow staircase led to the three bedrooms and one extra room on the second floor that were a place of rest and solitude for house guests and the Cooper's two sons, Claude Wessley and Edwin.

The two boys grew up in the house and completed their primary education at Thayer High School.

As prominent members of the community, Dr. and Mrs. Cooper served and contributed to many different businesses, social and church organizations.

The big old white house has continued to withstand the riggers of time, although it has gone through some upgrades and expansion.

With Myrtice's mother coming to live with Doc and the Misses, the expansion of a sitting room, two bedrooms and an extra bathroom with a basement were added.

After years of service to the medical and local community, Doctor Cooper retired to spend time fishing and hunting at their cabin and farm property on Spring River.

Many people can relay stories about Doc Cooper, one such event was told this way:

One day Doc Cooper called the local barber Harold Burkhead. "Harold," Doc Cooper said, "I understand you have a good bird dog, would you like to bring your dog and go bird hunting with me?"

Harold loaded up his dog and went with Doc Cooper to a farm just south of Mammoth Spring and proceeded to flush and shoot a couple covey of quail.

A young boy appeared on a ridge top above the two men. Yelling down to the two hunters, the young boy said, "My momma told me to tell you, your not suposta' be huntin' down here."

Doc Cooper yelled back to the boy, "You tell your momma this is Doc Cooper down here."

As the boy left, Doc turned to Harold and said, "I've delivered three babies for that woman. She never paid me a dime, so we are going to hunt here."

After Doctor Cooper passed on in 1985, Myrtice continued to maintain the big white house, hosting social and community functions.

Known as an excellent cook and hostess, Myrtice became an expert at making divinity for annual events and special occasions.

Doc and Myrtice were fans of the Missouri Tigers and big supporters of all of the Thayer Bobcats sporting events.

During the Saint Louis Cardinals baseball season, it would have been wise to make an appointment to visit with Myrtice.

If you happened to be walking down the sidewalk next to the big white house on Chestnut during game time, you could hear the sound of the radio announcer's play-by-play call as she enjoyed each game.

Myrtice always became excited to recall, in detail, each event of the previous game.

The big white house with a bright green roof, half way up Chestnut Street, became a signature of the fall season each year as the large maple trees turned their leaves to gold.

After a long legacy in the big white house on the hill, Myrtice passed away in March of 2008.

Both sons, having long since departed the local area and established professional careers, had no desire to continue to maintain the properties and opted to sell the holdings at auction.

An investment group from Cherokee Village purchased the house, a couple of lots and the acreage on Spring River.

After having the house listed on the real estate market for some time, the investors decided to auction off the big white house on Chestnut.

A soon to be retired serviceman and his wife Gary and Sandra Beck, were the high bidders to become the new owners of Doc Cooper's House.

The Becks have a 21-year-old son and two daughters.

Sandra Beck is the daughter of Faye Dawson of Mammoth Spring.

The Becks had looked to purchase a home near Mr. Beck's hometown, in Ohio, until they found a listing for the Cooper house on-line. They came to visit Ms. Dawson and looked over the house a week prior to the auction.

Upon Mr. Beck's retirement from the Air Force in a few months, the family plans to make Thayer their residence and the Cooper house their home.

They have a long legacy to uphold, upgrade and maintain.

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I am one of the babies that was delivered at home by Doc Cooper in rural Oregan County. I will always be grateful for his dedication to all the many families that he took care of for so many years.

When I was ill as a child, I remember going to his office for whatever was wrong with me. When he had finished seeing me, he would send me over to to the drugstore for a free ice cream cone. He did this not just for me, but for every child who came to see him.

My thanks goes out to him again.

Wanda Blankenship Hollis

Blue Springs, MO

-- Posted by Wanda Hollis on Wed, Jul 29, 2009, at 10:17 AM

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