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80-year-old honored for pouring coffee & building relationships

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Amid the laughter, tears and good-natured jokes, friends, family and co-workers celebrated Bob Cooper’s nearly 24 years of service at LifeWay Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center.

Cooper was honored July 18 with a life-sized bronze statue. Called “the minister of the coffee pot,” Cooper started working at Glorieta after retiring from his own office supply business in Fort Worth, Texas, in the 1970s.

The statue, which depicts Cooper pouring a cup of coffee, will stand outside Glorieta’s dining hall permanently as a reminder of Cooper’s servant leadership, said Mike Arrington, vice president of corporate affairs for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The statute was paid for with donations from fellow Glorieta employees, volunteers and friends of Cooper.

Cooper, who turned 80 on June 30, has spent many of his years at Glorieta quietly serving coffee and welcoming guests to Glorieta’s dining hall. A 1947 graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, Cooper and his wife, Sue, live in Dallas when not at Glorieta and attend Park Cities Baptist Church.

For many, Cooper’s service was more than a much-needed dose of caffeine every morning.

“His faithfulness and devotion to Glorieta are traits that we can all admire,” Arrington said. “He’s poured over 5 million cups of coffee, and I feel like every one of those cups of coffee is a relationship.”

Jess Moody, retired Southern Baptist pastor, author, storyteller and one of Cooper’s many friends attending the ceremony, compared his service to the biblical example of Jesus.

“Jesus could convert small things — a little mustard seed — into great evidence of providential care,” Moody said.

“The cup became the symbol of salvation,” he added. “This statue is a small imitation of something greater, and there is no statue on this earth that can do justice to such a good Christian man as Coop.”

In addition to sharing funny stories about Cooper, several highlighted his compassion for others, shown in a steaming cup of coffee, a smile and a sincere concern about a guest’s small problems.

“I’ve been fortunate to go to many conferences on [servant leadership],” said Larry Haslam, retired director of Glorieta. “The greatest lesson I’ve ever been privileged to learn on servant leadership was watching Bob pour coffee.”

Rick Tanner, general manager of Glorieta, said the newly unveiled statue has special meaning. “Bob puts a face on Glorieta,” Tanner said. “The thought of what Glorieta would be without Bob Cooper is a thought I just don’t want to have.”

Cooper, who has no plans to retire from his coffee pot ministry, said the ceremony in his honor was simultaneously overwhelming and wonderful.

“This has been a lot better than a funeral,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed by this. It’s just been a wonderful day. This is the best feeling in my life. It’s the best feeling I’ve had since Baylor beat Texas A&M in football.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at https://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: 5 MILLION SERVED.

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  • Mandy Crow