Wally Cooper: A life in sales 2012.09.19

Written by David Green.

wally cooperBy DAVID GREEN

It started off with newspapers in his home town of Gunnison, Col. Next came Bible story books, followed by Fuller Brush products, “Successful Farming” magazine and finally postal uniforms.

Wallace “Wally” Cooper of rural Sand Creek summarizes his career this way: “I’ve been in sales all my life.”

Wally grew up in Gunnison where his father owned a ranch. Both of his grandfathers were homesteaders in the state. Wally suffered a life-changing accident when he was eight years old. He was severely burned and the incident left an enormous amount of scar tissue on his back—a condition that later prevented him from taking many jobs.

After he graduated from Gunnison High School, Wally and his brother took over the franchise for the distribution of the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper in Gunnison. The boys would drive to the airport to pick up the papers, then prepare them for the delivery kids.

He left Gunnison to attend college in Tennessee—Madison College, part of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Eventually he joined a friend in Georgia to sell Bible story books and that was the start of 43-year career.

Wally figures a typical salesperson would stick with the job for three or four years, but he continued for more than four decades.

“That was a lot more than most,” he said. “I wasn’t very good when I started, but I ended up being very good at it.”

There was a reason he stayed with what his church called a “literature evangelist.”

“I really had no choice in the matter,” Wally explained.

It was the accidental burn. Anytime he needed to take a physical for a factory job, he was turned away.

“I knew I couldn’t get very many jobs,” he said. “I did what I had to do.”

Wally sold books in Georgia for five years, and during that time he met his future wife, Dorothy Mae Covell of Morenci. They married and moved to Michigan to help care for Dorothy’s mother.

He brought his book sales job with him. Wally did some door-to-door sales in Georgia—a lot of hard work—but most of his career involved placing the books in doctor’s offices and other locations.

Every book includes response cards and his sales efforts would involve following up on those who sent in a card.

“You can go door-to-door,” he said, “but it’s better to go where someone is interested.”

Wally says that he always sold more than one thing at a time. For example, he became a representative for “Successful Farming” magazine. He would receive the subscription list from the publisher and contact readers about renewals. He also made calls to non-subscribers, with the advice to contact farmers before noon. After that they might be out in the fields and wouldn’t want to talk.

Eventually subscriptions were handled via the internet and that job disappeared.

Wally began selling for the Arslan Uniform company, supplier of clothing for postal service employees, and he visited post offices from Jackson to Toledo. Once again, the internet has pretty much killed off that enterprise. He has only a few regular customers who still buy from him.

Wally is also still selling Fuller Brush Company products, with an inventory that goes far beyond brushes. A new product book with sales items comes out every month and he places books in a few locations in the area. He still supplies a few regular customers who order products.

“Most of my customers are within four or five miles,” he said, including a few in Morenci.

Wally put in a few years working as a security guard on weekends at factories.

“You never get a holiday off,” he said, because when the factory is closed, he has to be on the job.

He worked for the Dura Corporation until it closed its operation in Adrian, then worked at Merillat Industries until it closed.

Dorothy died in 2006 after 38 and a half years and his second wife of three years, Patty, now lives in Indiana where she is near family to assist with medical problems.

Wally’s arthritis forced him to give up his book sales, but he receives retirement pay—something he earned after reaching 20 years of service with the church.

“I liked sales after a while, but when I started it was rough,” Wally said. “I liked meeting with people.”

The array of people he met over his career was varied and interesting.

“You can’t imagine,” he said. “I spent most of the time in Toledo. All kinds of people there.”

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016