Holiday Traditions: Large family makes for variations in Cooper family traditions
Concordia School District Superintendent Brent Cooper says he and his wife, Kathy, have experienced variations on holiday traditions since they married in 1995, but they feel fortunate to have always been surrounded by family.
“I moved to Concordia from Bowling Green, Kentucky, my sophomore year in high school,” Cooper said. “That was in 1985 when my dad, Dave Cooper, was hired as principal at Concordia High School (1985-1991) and my mom, Cheryl Cooper, taught at Knob Noster Middle School. I returned to CHS as A+ Coordinator, athletic director and boys basketball coach in 2000, and am currently in my first year as superintendent of the district.”
Kathy Cooper has been co-owner of Physical Therapy of Concordia, and now Knob Noster Physical Therapy. The couple has three children: Cailey, who is a junior at the University of Missouri-Columbia; Cameron, who is a senior at CHS; and Cate, an eighth-grader at CHS.
Cooper said that, initially, Christmas involved a Cooper family Christmas with his dad’s family in Meadeville.
“Christmas Eve was always spent in Pittsburg, Kan., where all four of Kathy’s siblings (Lisa, Julie, P.J. and Steffanie), their families, and her parents, Pat (a retired high school principal) and Carolyn (a retired nurse), celebrate,” he said. “Then Christmas day would be spent with the Butterfield’s, which is my mom’s side of the family, either in St. Louis, Meadeville, or Lone Jack. Since the passing of my grandparents, on both sides, and my dad in 2001, the traditions have changed.”
The family currently puts their Christmas tree up the weekend of Thanksgiving, and once the stockings are hung, the kids receive small items on random mornings between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We look forward to hosting the Cooper family at our house on one of the Sunday’s in December,” Cooper said. “Our house is central to the aunts, uncles and cousins who make time to get together. Kathy makes chili and bacon cheddar potato soup , and everyone brings sides and sweets.”
Cooper added that, depending on what day of the week Christmas falls on, each immediate family celebrates prior to Christmas.
“We travel to Pittsburg and play a game of basketball with adults versus grandkids, then all the grandkids frost sugar cookies,” he said. “Christmas eve lunch is pizza for Kathy’s family as we celebrate all three of our kids’ birthdays. Their birthdays fall on Dec. 14, Dec. 29 and Jan. 10.”
The family then attends mass together at Our Lady of Lourdes in Pittsburg, where Kathy grew up, before heading to one of Kathy’s sisters’ homes for meat and cheese tray, dips, meatballs, little smokies, sausage, veggies, and all the sweets the ladies in the family make. The cousins then open presents, from youngest to oldest, then the adults do the same.
“We feel grateful that we have been able to keep this family tradition as the has grown over the years,” Cooper said.
On Christmas morning, Santa visits the kids at Kathy’s parents’ house, and everyone enjoys a delicious breakfast before heading to Windsor, where Cooper’s sister Kristen Swigert (an early childhood education teacher in Warsaw), her family and Cooper’s mom (who comes in from Arizona) have a meal prepared. And, they once again exchange gifts.
“Obviously, there are a few basketball practices sprinkled in during the Christmas break, as we always play Lincoln in the State Fair Community College Shootout a couple of days after Christmas,” Cooper said. “Many members of our family will come and attend that event as well.”