The wig, with its eye-opening Kelly green curls, was mailed to the principal’s office at Bonny Eagle High six months ago. Beth Schultz smiled when she saw what was in the box. She also found a note.

“I hope you get as much from wearing it as I did,” read the words. “Not only did it show school spirit, but it always seemed to bring a smile to people’s faces and I loved that!”

Lois Cooper wore the wig last fall to Bonny Eagle football games. The Scots’ colors are green and white. She had lost her hair several times over the last five years or so to the chemotherapy that attacked her cancer. She was buried this past Wednesday in a Fairfield cemetery.

She didn’t lose her giggle or her irreverent humor in her last weeks. The woman who taught so many of us how to live life for much of her 68 years, was showing how to die with grace.

Her son, Kevin, has been Bonny Eagle’s head coach for 14 seasons, winning four state championships in five years. Her husband, Pete, was his assistant after three decades as Lawrence High’s very successful head coach. Their grandson, Cameron, was a starting wide receiver and linebacker for Bonny Eagle until he broke his arm halfway through the 2011 season.

You could have called her the first lady of Maine high school football, but woe to anyone who did. Lois was too earthy, too unpretentious to tolerate such a title.

Lois was a farm girl from Appleton when she and Pete Cooper met as students at the University of Maine. He played football. She understood the difference between a football and a pineapple, but not much more. She went to the library for all the books on the fundamentals and theory of football she could find.

After they married she learned what the books couldn’t tell her: how to be a football coach’s wife. How to deal with dozens of teenage boys who were suddenly part of her family. How to share her husband with assistant coaches who seemed to spend more time with him in the summer and fall than she did.

How to cope with a community’s football fans on game day, or any day after the team lost. She stopped sitting in the grandstand on Friday nights so she wouldn’t hear the second-guessing, or worse. During the years at Lawrence, she got a bulldog, which was the school’s mascot, and named it Larry. Lois walked Larry on the sidelines, away from her husband’s critics.

Years later, she tutored her future daughter-in-law. “I didn’t come from a football family. I didn’t know,” said Amanda Cooper. “We’d stand together at the fence during games and she’d teach me.”

At first, Amanda Cooper would flinch and gasp when a Bonny Eagle player was involved in a tackle. She did a lot of both until Lois turned to her and explained the different pads the players wore and their conditioning and how tackling was part of the game. And how Amanda better get used to it or she’d be exhausted by the fourth quarter.

Despite the championships, Bonny Eagle fans second-guessed Kevin Cooper. It’s what football fans do. “I had to tell myself that I didn’t say anything when my husband coached,” Lois once told me. “I can’t do it now, I’d just make things worse. I kept my mouth shut.”

But never her heart.

Eleven women served as her pallbearers on Wednesday. No one seems to know exactly why.

“We didn’t know that she picked the women until my father found the list after she had died,” said Kim Suttie, her daughter. “The only explanation that makes sense is that all of those women were very close to her, and all strong, loving women. They all, in their own ways, supported her throughout her life and especially during her illness. The easy answer would be that she would say, ‘Who needs men — women can do just a well,’ but knowing who she chose, we know it was so much more than that.”

In turn, Lois supported her family and friends. She was always “all-in” said her daughter.

During the high school basketball playoffs last winter, Bonny Eagle Principal Beth Schultz told the team she’d wear the green wig in school for a day if they beat Deering High. The Scots lost, but Schultz decided the next day to wear the wig anyway.

“It will always represent Lois’s loving spirit, positive energy, kindness and generosity,” said Schultz. She keeps the wig within easy reach.

I last saw Lois Cooper at Fitzpatrick Stadium in November. Lawrence played Cheverus for the Class A title on that cold Saturday afternoon. She was with her husband of 47 years, who loved her dearly. We hugged and I quickly felt the strength of her embrace.

I saw the small grin on her face and the snap in those eyes. A remarkable woman was telling me goodbye.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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