The Gulf Coast Harpers established the Cynthia Cooper Scholarship Memorial Fund. This fund sends a deserving student to the Houston Summer Harp Festival, held at Houston Baptist University each July.
Cynthia Ann Lancaster Cooper was born October 7, 1924 in College Station, Texas. She was the second of five eventual siblings and the only girl. Her father, Robert Roy Lancaster of Nevada Missouri, worked for the local U.S. Government agricultural “Extension Service”, associated with Texas A&M University, keeping up with the latest in farming science and teaching that information to local farmers. Her mother, Helen Erma Douglass of Fort Collins, Colorado, was also initially with the Extension Service and later homemaker and music teacher in piano.
Mother Erma and her sister Wilhelmina “Aunt Mina” played piano and organ in the First Baptist Church in Fort Collins so Cynthia had strong musical influences from the beginning. Erma’s family also had a little piece of property in the mountains west of Fort Collins with a small old miner’s cabin on it. Erma would take Cynthia and brothers to spend summers in the cabin – with no indoor water or plumbing! And the ‘refrigerator’ was the remaining snow outside the kitchen window! Eventually the church got a new organ and gave the old foot pump organ to the Douglass sisters and they managed to haul it up into the old cabin where Cynthia and brothers spent many cool summer mountain evenings happily pounding and pumping away songs on the poor old thing – ALL getting their initial music ‘educations’. (And today that same organ sits in our living room!) Yes her brothers were also musical with different instruments and for a while they had their own little family orchestra under the direction of mother Erma.
After piano and organ, Cynthia took up the violin, but after seeing a demonstration harp performance that came through College Station in the 1930s, her musical fate was sealed and she changed to harp. Her mother would regularly drive her 90 miles to Houston on all dirt roads for lessons with Houston harp teacher and promoter Mildred Milligan. Cynthia attended A&M Consolidated High School and she and another Milligan student Lois Breaker were the first women to play with the Texas Aggie Band, though it was actually the ‘Aggie Orchestra’, a sitting orchestral instruments subset of the Aggie Band – they didn’t actually ‘march’ their harps on the field!
After high school Cynthia attended ‘TSCW’ Texas State College For Women in Denton (now ‘TWU’ Texas Woman’s University) and finally The University Of Texas at Austin where in 1946 she received a degree in music and harp under Dorothy Dragalla. In 1947 she married Rex Lon Cooper on the evening of August 30 under a full August moon and under the trees on the side of Cynthia’s family home in College Station. Cynthia and Rex moved to Houston for Rex’s work and after raising five children she returned to the harp and spent the remainder of her life devoted to her music, church, family and friends. A granddaughter Sonja Marie Loy has also taken up the grand instrument.
Cynthia was a long time member of Berachah Church under Pastor ‘Colonel’ R.B Thieme, Jr. and then West Houston Bible Church under Pastor Robert Dean – and spent the years of her childrens’ youth teaching home Bible clubs for youth and children (and ‘wrestling’ with the related story board flannelgraphs!). In the last year of her life she began to decline but very happily attained her 90th birthday October 7 at the home of her third son Bruce in northwest Houston with friends, family and grandchildren in attendance.
In the early morning hours of Saturday November 8th, aged 90 years and 32 days, after a long and loving life, she was quietly called to her eternal rest by her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the home that she and husband Rex first provided for their family in 1960.
She is preceded in death by husband Rex Lon Cooper, father Robert Roy Lancaster of Nevada, Missouri, mother Helen Erma Douglass Lancaster of Fort Collins, Colorado, brothers Doug, James and John Lancaster, and nephew Thomas Younger Flynt III.
She is survived by her five children, Rex Lon Jr; Robert Roy; Bruce Tyre; Cynthia LaFaye; and Susan Marie Loy; grandchildren Brian Andrew Cooper, Brandon Collier Cooper, Daniel Diaz, Christopher Carter Loy, Jr., and Sonja Marie Loy; and great grandchildren Samantha Renee Cooper and Andrew Joshua Cooper – as well as extended family, nieces and nephews.