Local News

February 14, 2014

Former Dalton resident loved motorcycles, rock climbing

Anytime Joel Cooper came home from Florida, everyone wanted a piece of his time.

His parents, Ken and Melanie Cooper, wanted to see him. His brother and two sisters wanted to see him. His grandparents wanted to see him. On top of all that, his many friends and buddies from Northwest Whitfield High School and elsewhere wanted to hang out.

“Joel was very, very loved,” said Melanie Cooper. “He had very much a zeal for life. He was always about the next big thing that was coming along, the next big adventure, the next big idea.”

A rock-climbing fanatic and avid motorcycle rider, Joel Cooper died Sunday in a motorcycle wreck in Tampa, Fla. He was 23 and had lived in the area for a couple of years. Visitation was earlier this week, and a memorial service to honor his life is set for today at 3:30 p.m. at Church on the Hill in Dalton.

From the time Joel was about 6, he loved riding dirt bikes, four-wheelers and motorcycles, his parents said. He loved being outside, especially at the beach. When he was younger, he built bicycle ramps and forts on the family’s property in Dalton. In Florida, he’d even built a rock-climbing wall inside his apartment.

“He never met anybody who was a stranger,” Ken Cooper added. “Everybody he met, within five minutes you’d have thought they were best friends.”

Joel Cooper was exploring his career options in Florida and had discussed some entrepreneurial possibilities with his family and was looking into college options, the Coopers said. Some family members joked that while Joel wasn’t sure what he’d end up doing, they knew it would be something using his mouth because he could “talk the horns off a billy goat.” A talker perhaps, but he helped people feel at ease, his family said, and he was genuine and accepting of others regardless of their physical appearance or station in life.

“What you saw was what you got. There was no pretense. Sometimes as his mom, I wish there would have been some,” Melanie Cooper added, half-jokingly.

Survivors include older brother Jonathan, and younger sisters Mallory and Isabel. The Coopers said Joel remained close to his brother and sisters after he moved away, including Isabel who was adopted into the family from Guatemala when the other kids were older.

After graduating from Northwest, Joel held various jobs and spent some time in Orlando, Fla., before moving back to the Chattanooga area, his family said. He moved to the Tampa area about a year-and-a-half ago to be with friends and was living with a roommate.

The Coopers said their son was on his way home from working at a restaurant the night of the wreck after getting off around 2 or 3 a.m.

Melanie Cooper described the family’s loss as “the worst nightmare a parent could ever have,” but she said they take comfort in knowing Joel as a Christian is in a better place.

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