The loss of a father — and father figure — whose impact and legacy stretched far beyond the greater Washington area has prompted one former D.C. Diva to launch a fundraising campaign for the family Ezra "Coop" Cooper left behind in Arlington.
Cooper, the head coach of the Divas, a professional women's football team, from 2001 to 2008, died in late October from an apparent heart attack, according to the Divas' website.
His impressive record included four undefeated regular seasons, a national championship, two Eastern Conference championships and five division championships, the website states.
Thom Loverro, co-host of the "Sports Fix" on ESPN 980 radio, wrote in the Washington Times that more than 150 current and former Divas attended Cooper's funeral in Arlington in November.
"It took a special man to be willing to coach women to play rough, tough, professional tackle football. This was new ground, for the most part. Cooper had played football in high school and at Shepherd College, and now he was going to teach women to play the ultimate macho game. And he would do it for free," Loverro wrote.
One of the women who spoke at the funeral — Gayle Dilla, a financial advisor and former Diva — called cooper a "father figure," according to his account.
Dilla has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 for Cooper's wife and two young children.
So far, the Cooper Family Fund has received more than $21,000 in small and large donations.
Dilla posted on GoFundMe two days ago that the extended Diva family is trying to send Cooper's wife and children to Disney World.
Also, the Rock Spring Cooperative Preschool, at 5010 N. Little Falls Road in Arlington, is hosting a holiday bazaar to benefit the Cooper Family Fund from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 11.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of Coach Cooper. He was a great man and a great coach! I was one of the players that came from the Baltimore team. I am grateful for the opportunity he gave me and all that he taught me," wrote Kelly Keller-Edwards, a 2004 Diva from Glen Burnie, Md., in Cooper's online guest book. "The family will be in my thoughts and prayers."