Monday, Feb. 15th 2016

Effort Inherited

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”       – Dan Montano

 The trees are different in Joplin, Missouri, but the story of Lee Cooper began there and continued in El Dorado Springs.  Effort and drive were instilled early and echoed often over the course of his life. Early on he recalls his father, who much like the gazelle, understood that the sun rising meant another day to exude a maximum effort towards success. There have been many businesses, ventures and interests that helped shape the young Lee, there was Cooper Pharmacy, the Dairy Maid or the car wash, and you would catch him changing oil at the shop at Cooper Chevrolet. Maybe it was the primal drive to not be the slowest gazelle that powered Orvel and Donna to expand the family business into more and more arenas.

When they celebrated his father’s 80th birthday, this last December, Lee remembered a story from his youth. The family was together for Christmas Eve and Lee and Orvel, of course, were working at the car wash right up to the dinner bell. “Dad, the whole family is back at the house, ready and waiting,” Lee hollered over the power washer. To which his dad responded, “Yeah, and they’ll still be there when we’re done.” Lee still goes to his dad when he needs advice and credits his success to the values that he influenced.

Lee, through opportunity and effort has moved through the business world, much as his father has. He has operated many different businesses and most proudly, he has worked alongside David and Linda Coffelt in an ever changing title business. He is also very proud of his equally ambitious sons, Sam and Luke, whom he raised with his wife of 30 years, Dena. Sam is in the middle of his law degree, taking a “break” by working on Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. Luke is attending college at UMKC and, though that would be enough for most 21 year olds, he also operates a basketball training business.   Lee and Dena now live in Harrisonville and have business influence spanning the Kansas City area. As a further example of Lee’s drive and determination, for the past 22 years, rain or shine, Lee has never wavered on his 5 mile run, a commitment to himself. He shapes his perspective on growing, learning, adapting, and keeping good people around him, his family, and his business. When asked what he wants to be known for, he responds “as a good friend and as a great dad.” And then wonderfully complimentary towards the lion and gazelle metaphor he follows with, “When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

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