By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
COOPER, Iowa, April 1, 2019 — The Greene County Iowa Historical Society has its regular April meeting on Friday, April 12, at the United Methodist Church in the town of Cooper, and there will be a special guest presenting the program — “Isaac Cooper,” the pioneer Iowa businessman after whom the town was named.
Actually, Isaac Cooper died in 1902, so his visit will be a historical portrayal, performed by actor Dennis Peer, of Iowa Falls, a talented native son of the town of Cooper.
This event was originally scheduled for Friday, April 5, but postponed to April 12 because of a funeral.
There will be other special guests, too.
Cooper Hubbell, 35, of Des Moines, the great-great-great-grandson of Isaac Cooper, is planning to attend, as is his father Mike Hubbell, also of Des Moines, great-great-grandson of Isaac Cooper.
Peer, who will be performing as Isaac Cooper, was one of the best athletes at Cooper High School, where he had completed his junior year when the school closed in 1959. And he had his first theatrical experience at Cooper High, too,, playing the lead role of “Mr. Latherby,” who under hypnosis thinks he’s a rabbit, in the school play, a farce titled “The Perfect Idiot.”
He went on to graduate from Jefferson High School the following year. He earned his bachelor and master’s degrees in theater from the University of South Dakota, where he met his wife Becky when both were performing in the cast of “Music Man.” They also performed in summer stock theater in the Black Hills for several years, too.
In Iowa Falls, Dennis taught theater at Ellsworth Community College for 38 years before retiring, and Becky did the choreography for most of the plays Dennis directed. She also operated a dance studio for 25 years, then opened a pre-school. They have a daughter Shawna Meyer and son Shannon Peer, both living in the Des Moines area.
The town of Cooper was founded in 1881 as a stop on a new railroad being built from Des Moines to the Iowa Great Lakes. One of the railroad’s developers was legendary Des Moines business leader Frederick M. Hubbell, and he named the new town in southern Greene County after his father-in-law Isaac Cooper.
It will be the second time Peer has portrayed Isaac Cooper, the first being when the town celebrated its quasquicentennial in 2006.
Cooper, the man, “was among the early settlers of the Des Moines area, and he did pretty well in business,” Peer said. “He’s probably most known for being the nephew of James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote ‘The Last of the Mohicans,’ and for his daughter Frances marrying into the Hubbell family. While our town of Cooper was named after him, I don’t think there’s any indication that he ever visited it.”
He said that in his portrayal, he’ll tell as much as he’s learned about Isaac Cooper, and “then I’ll also include some observations about the history and the people of the town, too. I’ll probably even include a blurb on the Peer family.”
Dennis is the only child of Don Peer, who had a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, and Martha Peer, who served for years as “postmistress” at Cooper’s U.S. Post Office.
The 1 p.m. program in the church sanctuary is free and open to the public.
On April 12, there will be a lunch in the Cooper church basement at 12 noon, $8 for historical society members and $10 for others who are not members. Historical society members should RSVP about lunch to their community contacts by Tuesday evening, April 9, and others who want to have lunch should RSVP to board member Nancy Hanaman at (515) 436-7684.