Anna Cooper Strong

A Celebration of Anna Cooper Strong will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4 at the First Unitarian Church of San Jose, and simulcast on Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/92337624889. 

In lieu of flowers, Anna’s family requests that you go for a ride/walk, to enjoy the beauty that fills each day.

Anna Lorraine Cooper Strong passed on Jan. 14, 2023, at age 66 of pancreatic cancer. 

Anna was born July 26, 1956 to William H. Cooper and Margaret (Margo) Lynn Cooper in Newport Beach. She was predeceased by her father and by her firstborn child, Andrew Peter Strong. She is survived by her mother, Margo, of Nevada City; her children, Joseph William Stronger (Ruth), Emma Strong Thomas (Kyle) and grandson Wesley, and Eleanor Grant Strong (Erika Grant); their father Robert Noble Strong (Patrick Canonge), all of San Jose; her siblings, Thomas Cooper (Martha) of Gila, New Mexico, Laura Cooper (Jeffrey Thomas) of Portland, Oregon, Peter Cooper (Angie) of Cazadero, Sara Brownwood (Jeff) of Nevada City; her companion, Scott Strayer of San Jose; and her longtime friend, business partner and mentor Elaine McBirney (Tom) of San Rafael.

Anna’s family moved from the beaches of San Clemente to the mountain town of Idyllwild when she was 11. She attended Idyllwild Elementary, the Shoal School in Mountain Center, and graduated from Desert Sun School in Idyllwild in 1974. 

As the oldest sibling, Anna was a natural ringleader and merrymaker. She was a pied piper, attracting (and often caring for) children drawn to her charisma. As a teenager and throughout her life, Anna led friends and siblings into adventures and mischief in the wilderness, always shepherding the group safely, sometimes at the exciting edge of risk. In this way she showed her early talent for teaching, joyfully and inclusively. She was courageous: As a young teenager, she flew alone to France to take up a post as an au pair in an unknown family. She expressed herself in her love of languages (a teen student of Spanish, French, German and Latin), in dance (studying under teachers at ISOMATA), and in her love of the wilderness.

Anna graduated from UC Riverside in 1979 with a degree in history and a teaching certificate. She worked in the math lab at Sacramento City College, as an analyst and writer for the Journal of the California School Boards Association and as a systems engineer for IBM Marketing in San Francisco, where she reconnected with a friend from Idyllwild, Robert Strong. 

Anna and Robert were married in San Francisco on Feb. 23, 1985, and made their home in Mountain View. Their first child, Andrew, passed shortly after birth. Robert and Anna worked with Helping After Neonatal Death, a group that teaches nurses and doctors how to support grieving parents by hearing the personal stories of parents’ own losses.

A year later, Joseph was born. Shortly after, and pregnant with Emma, Anna and her growing family moved to downtown San Jose. She taught pregnancy fitness classes through San Jose Hospital and worked with her father to reconstruct their old home in Naglee Park. 

After the birth of her fourth child, Eleanor, Anna started work on a master’s degree in mathematics at San Jose State University, which she completed in 2000. She continued as adjunct faculty there, consistently receiving high praise from students and colleagues alike, before retiring in 2017. 

Anna and Robert separated in 2008, and she later found companionship with her good friend, Scott Strayer. Anna was an endlessly supportive and loving mother to each of her children, and beloved by numerous others, young and old, whose lives she touched over the decades.

Anna threw herself heart and soul into many different interests. She loved hiking and backpacking throughout the Sierras with friends, family and the Unitarian Universalist hiking group on the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails; she had a central role in starting a neighborhood food co-op, babysitting co-op, and several book clubs; she attended operas with her daughter Eleanor and dear friend Mary Hegland; and she rode with the neighborhood Biker Babes. She enjoyed practicing and competing in ballroom dance with her dance partner, Alex Dziekanowski, as frequently as six days a week for many years.

Anna studied Buddhism at Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City. She took up tai chi as a physical and spiritual practice, particularly after her diagnosis in 2019, and taught it in the local park for two years until her final month. For many, Anna came to epitomize the practice of finding peacefulness and joy amidst the inevitable suffering that arises in life. Her final weeks were blessed with this wisdom and gladdened by time playing with her grandchild Wesley.