Nathalie Cooper, who lived many years in Portola Valley and devoted her life to educating the children of Portola Valley, died peacefully on May 31. She was 87.
She was born in St. Francisville, Illinois, and grew up there on the farm of her parents. She often spoke of the beauty of the countryside, the closeness of the community, and the satisfaction of enjoying food grown on the farm.
She moved to California, attended the University of Southern California, and began teaching in Portola Valley in 1948 while her husband, John Cooper, attended Stanford Law School.
At that time, Portola Valley was a farming community with two small school buildings, a gas pump, a Catholic church, and a bar across from the school, where the patrons made way for the children to have lunch.
Transportation to school was on foot, horseback and car pool.
The school was the center for community gatherings. Generations of children began their formal education in Nathalie Cooper's kindergarten class. Although she had many opportunities to travel and to live abroad with her husband John, who became head of the legal department for Varian, teaching children was her main joy.
After her retirement in 1982, she continued to live in Portola Valley. Her former students remained devoted to her and would visit her home, sometimes bringing their own children. She remembered every one and would tell stories of their days in kindergarten.
The Coopers were gracious and generous hosts. Their beautiful home, with a view of the western foothills, was the venue for many memorable events for friends and colleagues.
In 2008, after the death of her husband, Nathalie returned to live at her family farm in St. Francisville, Illinois, to be close to her nephew, his wife and their sons. The Brooke family cared for Nathalie in her last years and especially during her final bout with cancer.
Gifts in memory of Nathalie Brooke Cooper may be made to Windmill School (a preschool), 4141 Alpine Road, Portola Valley, CA 94028; and Wabash Cemetery Association, 11188 North 2300 Blvd., Allendale, IL 62410.