PAULA JEAN COOPER
November 2, 2019
Paula Jean Cooper, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by her family on November 2, 2019, after a brief but spirited fight against ovarian cancer. She was 86 years old.
Paula was born in 1933, the second of two daughters to Bernard Frank Cooper and Wilhelmina Chevalier Dawes. She grew up in Palos Verdes Estates, CA, where she enjoyed riding her horse bareback, her hair flying behind her in the breeze, a study of joy and abandon. She later attended the University of Redlands, San Diego State University, and UCCS where she earned a Bachelor and two Masters degrees.
Paula met Robert Steinbach at the University of Redlands and they married in 1954; together they raised three children, Brad, Sue and Laura. Paula taught her children to appreciate the outdoors, classical music and cultural diversity. Paula and Robert divorced in 1969 but remained friends for another 50 years. In her later years, her decade-long companion Tony Raitz captivated her heart with a shared love of dance, golf and history until his recent death on June 22, 2019.
Throughout her life Paula was a passionate educator, beginning as an elementary school educator, combining her love of music and education through establishing a youth orchestra at Peyton elementary school in CO in the mid-1970s. In her 50s, Paula became a special education teacher and was recognized many times for her work with developmentally disabled individuals with autism.
Yet even beyond education, the love of Paula's life was music performance. She excelled at the cello, performing in the San Diego Symphony, the Tri-Cities Symphony Orchestra, Walla Walla Symphony and the Colorado Springs Symphony. She continued to teach cello and piano to private music students until two weeks before her death. She held a deep love for her students, many of whom became her beloved friends.
Paula was cherished by her friends and family for her compassion for the under privileged, her generosity towards perfect strangers, her razor-sharp intellect, and her 1000-watt smile. She was a fierce advocate for racial equality and women's rights, outspoken on both topics. She also loved dancing, gardening, golfing and bird watching, and single-handedly constructed a small sanctuary in her backyard for chickens, rabbits, squirrels and birds. She was known for her deep and abiding heart connections, with both people and animals.
Paula is survived by her three children Brad Steinbach, Sue Ruzicka and Laura Steinbach along with six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A Memorial Service in Paula's honor has not yet been scheduled. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The National Association for Music Education (https://nafme.org