Ina Louise Cooper

The Burnet County Historical Commission will honor seven individuals for their contributions to Burnet County, at a Citizens of Note reception Tuesday, July 2 at 11 a.m. at the Burnet County AgriLife Extension Office, 607 North Vandeveer, Burnet. The community is invited to this special event and welcome to read each of the seven biographies in The Highlander and at highlandernews.com.

Burnet County Historical Commission

Citizen of Note

Ina Louise Cooper

1941 — 2017

by JoAnn Myers,

with memories from Monte Donaldson

In Burnet, Ina's friends thought they knew Ina, but come to find out, they didn't. They knew she grew up in Mexia, because she proudly talked about her home town and the High School reunions she never missed, that she owned a Frame Shop on the square, and that she served on the Burnet City Council. They also knew that she was passionate about preserving history in the town and county, and that she formed a 501c3 group, Friends of Cultural and Historical Preservation, to fundraise for local preservation projects. Ina organized a Cultural Arts Festival in Burnet which brought artists and storytellers to town much to the delight and entertainment of citizens. Regrettably, even with all of these known facts, for the most part, Burnet residents really did not know Ina until after she passed away.

Ina grew up in Mexia, Texas, graduating from high school there in 1959. She headed to the University of Texas where she was a member of the Longhorn Marching Band for four years. She was a math major at UT, and after graduation was recruited by a company called TRW, based in California. That company was a pioneer in aerospace, building many spacecraft, including Pioneer 1, Pioneer 10 and space-based observatories. The company lead the development of the United States' first ICBM. By the time Ina joined the corporation, the focus of the work was on development of the Titan missile, which flew the Gemini missions. Ina was a part of that proud time in the country's space program.

Ina was transferred to Houston, where she worked at the Space Center at NASA. She worked on the trajectory re-entry programs for the Apollo missions, writing re-entry code and firmware, in a division called TRW Controls, which designed and installed control systems for major power plants, railroads, etc., all over the world. She worked as a software engineer and later the marketing department, becoming an expert on the systems. In that capacity, she traveled the world to exotic locations such as China, Spain, and England, making presentations, and later assisting with the installation of such systems. While on these overseas trips she remembered her friends, always bringing Christmas tree ornaments back from her travels to give to them. One of those friends, Monte Donaldson, recalled, “My Christmas trees shine with ornaments she brought to my family.”

Monte also related more about her life while living in Houston. He recalled helping her build a greenhouse over one weekend. Ina had all the boards cut to the lengths she specified in her drawings and the two of them built that greenhouse on the back of her garage in West University, Houston. They even installed working windows and electricity. Ina gradually filled the greenhouse with orchids and other exotic plants, which she moved between her house and the greenhouse.

Each year, Monte remembers fondly, Ina held her annual Christmas Party, to which 150-200 people would attend. “Everyone brought food and drinks,” Monte recalled. “She had a music room in her home that contained all sorts of musical instruments, including a player piano and an organ. She would get on the piano and Bill Davidson, our Vice-President of Marketing, would get on the organ.

They were great together and could play just about any song requested,” Monte added. “The music filled the house and the neighborhood. She very wisely invited the surrounding neighbors.”

After Ina's mother passed away, she decided she wanted to leave Houston and go into the antique business in a small town. She chose Burnet, Texas, and Monte was there to help her with the purchase of a store on the square. She later started a framing business and did quite well. Monte recalled that he and Ina talked on the phone and visited often.

She sent homemade divinity to me and my kids still talk about Ina and her divinity,” Monte said.

She most likely got her candy-making skills from her father, who operated a candy company in Mexia. He made some of the candy and bought others. Several of Ina's classmates worked for him over the years in his shop. Ina had a favorite story about her dad's candy store. She said she liked to sneak into the kitchen when her dad was making the peppermint candy. After he poured out the candy and it was still warm, she would dab her fingers into the warm peppermint and “licked them real good—several times.”

The Mexia High School graduating class of 1959 has maintained very close ties and most of Ina's classmates were at her funeral in Mexia and at the reception afterwards.

When the Eyes of Texas was played at the service, the class all stood, shouted, and gave the Longhorn sign,” Monte related. “The school has a scholarship program which has helped many students from the high school. Ina made a substantial bequest to their fund.”

Ina also made substantial bequests to other groups she was a part of here in Burnet. Both the Burnet County Historical Commission and the First United Methodist Church were recipients of her generosity.

Because of her remarkable contributions to our country, her devotion to classmates, friends and neighbors, and because of her generous bequests to her church and community preservation projects, Ina Cooper is a true Citizen of Note. May you Rest in Peace, Ina Cooper.

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