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Dr. Marvin E. Cooper, Chicago pediatrician for 64 years, also taught at Northwestern, dead at 98

West Rogers Park doctor attributed his longevity to good genes, 69 years of happy marriage and, as he wrote in a family memoir: ‘For 64 years, had my hands on babies.’  

Marvin E. Cooper
Dr. Marvin E. Cooper
Provided

Dr. Marvin Cooper was buried with his stethoscope. It was a fitting accessory for a pediatrician who tended to four generations of some families over his 64-year career.

Dr. Cooper — who practiced until he was 90 from an office in West Rogers Park and taught at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine — died Sept. 16 at his Lincolnwood home. He was 98.

He attributed his longevity to good genes, 69 years of happy marriage to his wife Marcia and, as he put it in a family memoir: “For 64 years, had my hands on babies.”

He was 5 when he became interested in medicine. After hitting his head in a fall, he paid attention to the doctor stitching him up.

“I remember not crying but being totally fascinated as I watched him perform the procedure, which I did by looking through the mirror that was hanging on an opposite wall,” he wrote.

He grew up on the second floor of a two-flat in Albany Park. His paternal grandfather Moses Patchipauvich was from Russia. A U.S. immigration officer couldn’t spell or pronounce the name, so he “went down a list of names in front of him, came across the name Cooper and just assigned it,” Dr. Cooper wrote.

His parents were Rose and Leon Cooper, founder of the Clever Maid uniform company. Young Marvin went to Bateman grade school and got his ear twisted when he misbehaved at Congregation Mount Sinai’s Hebrew School. While at Roosevelt High School, he had a weekend job selling shoes at the old Boston Store at State and Madison.

After getting his bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he attended medical school there.

Dr. Marvin Cooper tending his first great-grandchild Ethan Cooper as his granddaughter-in-law Angela looks on.
Dr. Marvin Cooper tending his first great-grandchild Ethan Cooper as his granddaughter-in-law Angela looks on.
Michael Cooper

He listened in shock to 1941 radio bulletins about Japanese planes bombing Pearl Harbor. The following day, “Almost every one of the pre-medical students went to the Armory on campus and enlisted,” he wrote.

His service was deferred until after medical school. After an internship at Michael Reese Hospital and Chicago’s Sarah Morris Children’s Hospital, where he worked in the polio ward, he entered the Army.

During a troop-ship voyage to Japan, Dr. Cooper won $10,000 shooting dice against bored officers. He knew his parents wouldn’t approve and never told them. He later used the money as a down payment on his house.

To the end of his life, he held onto the lucky dice along with his dog tags but wrote, “I have never picked up dice again nor have I ever gambled since.”

Dr. Cooper served in Korea until breaking his back on a toboggan outing. He spent 18 months recovering in military hospitals.

After returning to Chicago, he did an internship at Cook County Children’s Hospital, where he bumped into Marcia Podolsky, a volunteer. They talked for three hours. After she left, he realized he’d been so enchanted that he’d forgotten to get his future wife’s name. He got the volunteer office to give him her phone number.

Dr. Marvin and Marcia Cooper would have been married 70 years next month.
Dr. Marvin and Marcia Cooper would have been married 70 years next month.
Michael Cooper

In his memoir, he wrote, “Long ago we pledged our love to each other, established a mutual trust, continue to always hold hands and never go to sleep without saying ‘I love you.’ ”

In 1950, they moved to a tract of new homes built for returning GIs in Lincolnwood. The area was so new, there was no phone service.

“The closest telephone I could use was located at the ‘South Seas Restaurant’. . . . [at] Lincoln and Pratt. . . If I received a page from the service, I would get up, get dressed, and drive to the restaurant.”

Dr. Cooper came home for dinner every night before heading out on house calls. In the kitchen, his son Adam said, “We always had a round table,” where all five children were encouraged to talk about their day and world events.

He inspired his great-nephew Dr. Brian Dubin to become a physician. Now a radiologist, he recalled being plagued by ear infections as a 2-year-old. His uncle “very carefully listened to my heart and lungs and took my blood pressure and found I was very hypertensive and found out I had a heart murmur.”

He underwent heart surgery. “Had I not got it, I might not be here today,” said Dubin, 33.

Among the condolence notes families sent Dr. Cooper’s wife, one mother wrote: “I still have sketches he drew to explain injuries and care instructions written in his meticulous handwriting.”

Dr. Cooper loved crossword puzzles and a good Chicago hot dog. He requested the Charlie Chaplin song “Smile” be played at his funeral Sept. 18.

In addition to his wife and son Adam, he is survived by daughters Sara and Karen, sons Michael and Joel, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

He said his obituary “should say I was a hale and hearty guy, honest and true. A lifelong Democrat who hated Trump.”