Jo Cooper is one of those tireless citizens who make you question whether retirement really means retiring. Nevertheless, few people are more deserving of some R&R, whether it lasts a month or a lifetime.
Cooper is a Bar Harbor native, longtime Lamoine Select Board member and outgoing executive director of Friends in Action. Well-wishers gathered last Friday to celebrate her retirement from the nonprofit, which operates a senior center at the Moore Community Center and provides rides to local residents.
While she is quick to point out that it took many community members to launch Friends in Action nearly 20 years ago, Cooper was a force to be reckoned with from day one. She saw a need and sought to fulfill “her vision that a community is more than just a place where people live and go to work,” said her little brother and former Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. “It’s more than just a library. It’s more than just a town hall. It’s also a place where people can find dignity.”
Preserving dignity is right in the mission statement of Friends in Action, which serves older adults and people living with disabilities. Through social gatherings, meals, groups, classes, check-ins and rides, the organization seeks to improve quality of life for those it serves. In a rural state with limited public transportation and a high percentage of residents over the age of 65, that work is vital.
Friends in Action teamed up with the city and the Down East Family YMCA to create the Moore Center at the former school on State Street. “We dreamed high about the possibilities and even our dreams were less than what you have accomplished since 2009,” Y CEO Peter Farragher told Cooper. “What an incredible ride,” he added.
When Cooper became involved in town government in her adopted home of Lamoine, her motivation was simple: Don’t gripe, get involved. She became the first woman to chair the Lamoine Select Board in 2017. She also has been active with the Lamoine Historical Society, hospice, Rotary Club and her church. Tireless when inspired, Cooper gets things done.
She recognizes that a life’s value does not diminish as a person ages. That everyone is worthy of respect and of being knit into the social fabric of their community. That we all have something to give – even more so with many decades of living behind us.