John Cooper obituary | Engineering

My grandad, John Cooper, who has died aged 96, was an electrical engineer. Throughout his life and work he was open to new ideas and embraced education and other cultures. His own life experiences fostered a deep concern for the welfare of others.

Born in Reading, John was the eldest son of Maurice, a master draper, and Agnes (nee Bradley), an upholsterer. He gained a scholarship to Reading Blue Coat school, and left at 14, after passing his exams early, to support his family. He initially worked in telecommunications, joining the Post Office telephone engineering department in 1942 and the cable manufacturer Telcon, based in Greenwich, London, in 1949 – for whom he installed a large aerial cable on top of the Shot Tower on the South Bank for the Festival of Britain – before putting himself through night school to qualify as an electrical engineer.

John loved the opportunities this gave him to travel internationally. He designed and oversaw the installation of complex television networks, including in Madrid, Johannesburg and on the QE2 Cunard liner, collaborating with engineers from many countries and expanding his knowledge of different cultures. His experiences inspired him to return to evening classes in his 40s to learn Spanish. In 1981 he set up his own consultancy, which designed the television network for the Queen Alia airport in Jordan.

He met Rene Harding while they were both “digging for victory” on a farm in Kent in the aftermath of the second world war; they married in 1951. Family was vitally important to him, and he and Rene had three daughters: Helen, Alison and Barbara. As someone who had had to leave school early, John valued the opportunity of education and saw all of them attend university and further study.

His engineer’s mind meant that he continued to embrace new technology. After Rene died of heart failure in 2015, this became a lifeline for him to keep in touch with others. Central to this connection, especially during the pandemic, was the daily sharing of the Guardian puzzles with three generations of his family.

John remained active throughout his life. In his youth he had been a successful amateur footballer, including playing for Putney Athletic. After retiring to the Isle of Wight in his 70s, he joined a walking club, and organised and led the Christian Aid walk. In his 90s, he took up cycling on his e-bike. He had a photographic memory, and became the family archivist and keeper of its history. He was never without a project, and always ready with a few lines of humorous verse at the milestone events of his friends and family.

His youngest daughter, Barbara, died in 2018. John is survived by Helen and Alison, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *