Note: This is an encore post from 2005 that originally appeared on the 1947project.
Members of Cub Scout Pack 522-C gathered more than 32 tons in a paper drive to help buy artificial legs for injured pack member Jackie Cooper, 12.
Jackie and his friend, Lee Seely, 11, are being treated at General Hospital after an April 26 blast that occurred when one of the boys dropped an unexploded bazooka shell that someone found at Seal Beach, home of the Naval Weapons Station. Lee was hit in the abdomen with shrapnel and Jackie’s legs were amputated, his right leg below the knee and his left leg at mid-thigh.
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The boys eventually recovered and remained friends. The doctors said Jackie would never walk again and for a brief time he got around on crutches, feeling that his artificial legs were too clumsy to be any good. All he could do was work on his stamp collection and listen to the kids outside playing tag and baseball.
But Lee kept encouraging him to try his artificial legs, so Jackie finally threw down his crutches and walked to the window where he could look outside and see the neighborhood children playing.
Eighteen months later, Jackie was riding his bike.
By 1956, he had become Jack Cooper, at 21 the youngest journeyman general machinist at Lockheed, with a wife, Janet, and two boys; and was attending night school at L.A. City College. He wanted to be a physicist and met all the entrance requirements for Caltech, but couldn’t afford the tuition.
He and his friend Lee, 20, a utility clerk at Edison Co., also married with a young son, held hopes of starting a nuclear physics research firm. In the meantime, Jack conducted experiments in his home laboratory.
The newspapers do not tell us what became of Lee and Jack after 1956. If they are alive today, Jack would be 70 and Lee would be 69. Wherever they are, I wish them well.
Sources: L.A. Times, May 19, 1947; Oct. 18, 1948; July 21, 1956.