The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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August 4, 2007

Mourners celebrate unique soul

Active community member Judy Cooper remembered for her attitude

ST. PETER — Like other funerals, Judy Cooper’s had prayers, music and tears.

Like other funerals of well-loved people who died too young, Judy Cooper’s filled the church in St. Peter Saturday afternoon.

Like other funerals, it ended with the deceased belting out — Ethel Merman-style — “There’s No Business Like Show Business ... ”

OK, maybe that last element doesn’t happen so often.

But neither does a soul like Cooper’s, according to the people who told stories at a funeral that strived to be as unusual, as silly, as full of joy and as uncommon as the 60-year-old woman who died Thursday after a decade-long struggle with cancer.

Although the St. Paul native didn’t arrive in St. Peter until she was more than halfway through her life, Cooper didn’t waste time getting noticed or making a mark through song, conservation and work at the St. Peter Food Co-op.

“She blew into town and she blew our minds,” said Marcie Stoyke, who now lives in Duluth.

Cooper was probably most widely known as “Pinky Jean” in the East Side Pharaohs, an area band that supplies a mix of humor and ’50s and ’60s rock songs.

Bob Idso of St. Peter, speaking during a story-telling portion of the funeral, saw Cooper’s entry into show business back around 1983. Following a political meeting, Idso, Cooper and others went to a Kasota bar and listened to the band performing.

“Judy said, ‘These guys need a girl singer,’” Idso explained. “She went off and talked to these guys, and the next time I saw her she was ‘Pinky Jean the Dancing Queen’.”

Members of the band were at the front of the Holy Communion Episcopal Church Saturday, playing Loudon Wainwright’s “The Swimming Song,” one of Cooper’s favorites. And the entire crowd joined in a loud rendition of The Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

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