Nonagenarian continues to learn in his retirement

 By Debra Talcott

Legal News
 
 
One might wonder what could be on the bucket list of a man who has lived long enough to raise three children and be a grandfather of nine and a great-grandfather of four, to have served in the military during World War II and again during the Cold War, and to have retired after a distinguished career with the Ford Motor Co.  
 
For Ann Arbor resident Robert Copp, the answer is simple—take a modern physics class.
 
His sense of humor fully intact, Copp explains why he spends one day a week learning about the postulates of relativity and quantum mechanics.
 
“Maybe there’s a story about the push of us veterans of the Second World War to get back to finish school under the GI Bill,” says Copp. 
 
Born in Pennsylvania, Copp lived in Kansas and Ohio before his family moved to Michigan. He graduated from Dearborn High School in 1938 and began his studies at the University of Michigan. 
 
When asked if he has a particular memory of his own University days to share, Bob Copp is quick to answer.
 
“I don’t know if you would know of him, but I had American Literature class with a football player named Tom Harmon,” Copp said of the famed Heisman Trophy winner, whose son, Mark, stars in the CBS television hit NCIS. “He was a year ahead of me at Michigan.”
 
Copp’s work as a reference desk attendant in the law library reading room may have reinforced his decision to pursue his LLB from the U-M, a degree that he earned in 1950.
“I was never a practitioner, however,” says Copp.  “I spent my whole career in labor relations at Ford Motor Company, where my vice president, a Michigan Law grad himself, liked to hire law grads.”
 
Early in his career, Copp was involved in the establishment of the Ford manufacturing plant in Genk, Belgium, which opened in 1962.
 
“The tough and controversial forthcoming closure of that plant was recently reported in The New York Times,” says Copp.
 
Copp may have witnessed major changes in the automotive industry during his years with Ford, but when he retired in 1986 ,he could not have predicted how technology would change the next years of his life. 
 
He has embraced his desktop computer and keyboard, and he appreciates all the doors the internet has opened for him.
 
“My son Richard was the one who got me my first computer in 1992 and encouraged me to use it,” he says. “I took a class at Washtenaw Community College, and now I couldn’t live without it.”
 
Copp, a widower, wishes the Web would allow him to communicate with old friends from his years in the military.  Sadly, few of the men he met after enlisting in the Air Force Combat Command during his senior year of college are still alive. 
 
Copp enlisted soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and was was one of the veterans honored at the Veterans Day festivities held at Brookhaven Manor, the retirement complex where he has lived for the past eleven years.
 
Copp says all the Brookhaven veterans shared photos of their younger selves in uniform and that the resident manager handed out letters thanking them for their service.  
The trademark songs from each of the four branches of the military were played, and everyone recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I was lamenting on Veterans Day that my division had received its second Medal of Honor, and I’d like to be able to brag with my former colleagues, but there just aren’t any around.”
 

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