Date of Birth: April 24, 1923
Date of Death: July 16, 2015
Place of Birth: Detroit
Served in U.S. Marine Corps Women's Reserve during WWII
Lorraine Schneider Cooper fought religious and gender discrimination throughout her life, but always with a smile on her face.
Lorraine’s parents, Ben Zion Schneider and Sylvia Edelstein Schneider, arrived in the United States from Latvia in 1911, becoming nationalized citizens in 1920 and settling in Detroit. Ben loved the U.S. and tried to enlist in the armed forces in 1918, but was refused for medical reasons. He became involved in local politics and taught his children, Victor and Lorraine, that they could make a difference in the world by getting involved, solving problems, and spreading goodwill.
Following graduation from Central High School and encouraged by her brother, Victor, a U.S. Army lieutenant, Lorraine joined the Civil Air Patrol at age 20 and was assigned as a typist in the Detroit wing headquarters. In 1943, she enlisted in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.
“She volunteered for the Marine Corps during WWII because she felt it was her patriotic duty to serve and help free up the men for active duty,” said son Stephen Cooper. “My parents and their friends all felt serving during the war was their obligation for living in this country.”
Lorraine and her female colleagues met with some resistance from their male superiors and counterparts. Snide comments were common, and she was often denied leave for prejudicial reasons, but she found solutions to those problems. “Kill them with kindness,” was her motto. That approach wore the officers out and they backed off.
Lorraine served her tour in Quantico, VA, where she met David Cooper. They were married in December of 1944. Following his enlistment in the U.S. Army in 1945, David was assigned to Los Alamos, NM. At that point, Lorraine’s tour was ending and she had a choice to make. She could extend her tour with a promotion to sergeant, but chose instead to move to New Mexico to be with her new husband. Upon her discharge, she received an Honorable Service Button and an Honorable Discharge Button.
The Coopers moved to Detroit, where they bought Ray’s .5-$1 store on 12th Street and Calvert. Lorraine helped to run the store while attending to her parents -- who lived in Walled Lake and did not drive – and raising two children, Stephen (b. 1947) and Nancy (b. 1950). The 1960s were a tumultuous time in Detroit’s history. Bussing began in 1962, forcing Stephen and Nancy to attend Cooley High School instead of Mumford, separating them from most of their friends. Along with most of their neighbors, the Coopers moved to Southfield in 1963, where the family experienced religious prejudice.
“The schools gave important tests on all the major Jewish holidays, and when (my mother) complained, they gave her a bunch of lame excuses,” Stephen recalls. “My sister and I experienced a lot of anti-Semitism when we first moved to Southfield, but my mother always had a solution to the problem.”
Lorraine became involved with the sisterhood at Beth Achim and the synagogue board. She was president of the PTA and led Bluebird, Cub Scout, and Boy Scout troops. She mentored orphans, found homes for stray animals, and was active in the Democratic Party. She was a life member of Hadassah.
During the events of 1967, the Detroit store was demolished. David, at age 45, was told he was either too old or overqualified for positions he applied for. Lorraine’s father died suddenly in 1969, requiring Lorraine to work full time in her parents’ real estate business for years to ensure her mother was provided for. In 1972, Lorraine’s daughter, Nancy, died suddenly the weekend after she graduated college and a few days before starting a new job.
“My mother had to deal with all of these issues that would have split most families apart,” Stephen said.
Lorraine and David retired to Florida in 1985, then moved to the Chicago area in 2007 to be near son Stephen, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. David died in 2012, and Lorraine followed in 2015.
“She touched every person she ever came in contact with, and fought for causes she felt were important regardless of the consequences,” Stephen said. “She is my definition of a perfect mother.”