Obituary: Rollin Benjamin Cooper, 92

Rollin Benjamin Cooper, 92, Whitewater, passed away on November 24, 2022, at Shorehaven nursing home in Oconomowoc, WI.

Rollie was born on October 30, 1930, in Edgerton, Wisconsin to Maurice and Iva (Evans) Cooper.  After attending a one room school in Newville, he started high school in Edgerton and then graduated from Milton High in 1948.  Rollie received a BS degree in agriculture (animal science), 1952, an MBA in Marketing, 1956, a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics and PhD in Resource Economics, 1968, all from UW-Madison.  As a Badger, he rowed on the crew team, including victory as 1951 National Champions.

An ROTC graduate, he served in the Army (Korea) from 1952-1954.  In October 2021, he visited memorials in Washington, DC on an Honor Flight with his son Bill.

On August 12, 1961, Rollie married Nancy Hallock in Agawam, Massachusetts.  They met in a church choir and continued to love music, singing with the Milton Choral Union, the Whitewater Singers, and the University/Community Chorus and church choirs. Barn parties often featured music and polka dancing.

Rollie and Nancy also shared a love of sports, following the Whippets, Warhawks, Badgers, Packers and especially, any event with a competing or performing child or grandchild.  They received the honor of Grandma and Grandpa Whippet. After years as active members of Quarterback and Tip-off Clubs, they entered the UW-W Athletics hall of fame in 2011 (Distinguished Service Award).

Before becoming an educator, Rollie worked for Oscar Mayer and also sold Fuller Brushes door to door.  He served on the faculties of Milton College (1962-64) and UW-Whitewater (1964-70) both in the Economics Department.  In 1970 he joined UW-Madison Extension in the Recreation Resources Center, specializing in work with the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners and becoming Center director in 1986. He gained a national reputation for this work with campgrounds and his book, Campground Management, first published in 1992, is still being sold today.  Rollie retired in 1991.

Even before retiring, Rollie enjoyed farming and his horses. As a certified organic farmer, he sold produce from many venues, including a self-built stand in his front lawn and a local Saturday Farmers’ Market (that he co-founded).  He often used horse drawn equipment.  Images of this work made it into Mischka’s famous horse calendars.  

Rollie passionately believed in conservation and organic foods, maintaining annual organic certification.  During the height of his farming, he grew everything and especially loved his tomatoes, popcorn, and sweetcorn.  He frequently donated produce to the Food Pantry and Community Space.

Countless other community service projects benefited from Rollie’s energy. He strived for world peace and climate action and was active on church committees.  He walked and led as chair of Relay for Life and served on boards of the Food Pantry and the Homeless Shelter.  He relentlessly raised funds for Kiwanis projects, selling poinsettias and Easter lilies, receiving the Hixson Award and twice Kiwanian of the Year.  Recently, he tirelessly fundraised for the adaptive merry-go-round in Starin Park.

Rollie is survived by wife, Nancy, and their 4 children: Ben (Karla Hebert) of Munising, MI;  Tim (Pam Wilson) of Green Bay; Bill (Lisa Borzynski) of Eagle; and Amy (former spouse, Greg) Schumacher of Anchorage, AK.  Also surviving are 12 grandchildren:  Nicole (Jon) Pacl, Sharon (Brandon) Hollingshead, Andy (fiancé Hannah Zink) and Rachel Cooper; Matthew (Samantha), Erin, Audrey, and Emma Cooper; Quinn Cooper; and Gus, Rudy, and Heidi Schumacher.  In addition, 4 great-grandchildren survive: Ellison Pacl and Brooke, Ben, and Aubree Hollingshead.  Also surviving are many nieces, nephews and cousins as well as brothers in law Peter (Jill) Hallock, Andy Hallock, and John (Chris) Hallock. Rollie was preceded in death by his parents, sisters RoseMarie (Doug) Burdick and Lucille (Speed) Bartz, brother Allen (Maxine) Cooper, and sisters in law Carol and Jan Hallock.

The family would like to thank all the wonderful staff at Mercy Hospital in Janesville, Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehab facility in Waukesha, Marquardt Home Health and Shorehaven for their exceptional care of Rollie over the past few months.  Special thanks go to the DaVita dialysis center in Janesville, Dr. Elangovan and nurse Michelle Orethun, and son, Dr. Bill Cooper, who coordinated Rollie’s health care over the past 3 years with love and grace.  Finally, thanks to countless friends, especially John and April Borsodi who have taken over running the farm and caring for Rollie’s special horse, Jim.

Visitation will take place on Friday, December 16, 2022, at Nitardy Funeral Home, 550 N. Newcomb St., Whitewater, WI 53190 from 4-7 p.m. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, December 17, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. at the United Church of Christ, 133 S. Franklin St., Whitewater, WI 53190 with Pastors Michael Obinger and Duane Goetsch of the Community of Christ the Servant Church officiating. Friends may call at the church on Saturday from 10 a.m. until the time of the service. Following the service, please join us at Willow Brook Golf Course for a celebration of Rollie’s life.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested for the UWW Foundation– Athletics or the Breakfast Kiwanis Children’s Fund.  (Checks to Whitewater Kiwanis Foundation Inc., sent to First Citizens State Bank, Whitewater). Online Condolences may be made at

Share This