Alimal Cooper, ‘icon for leadership’, dies

2013-10-12 00:00

HER death is seen as a loss to the Hindu community and no one will be able to surpass her contribution — these were the sentiments of religious leaders at the passing of Alimal Cooper (83).

Cooper died on Thursday morning in Durban after suffering failing health.

She was actively involved in the KwaZulu-Natal Hindu community and her reach extended through the country as an activist, academic and religious icon.

She was the mother of Sathasivan “Saths” Cooper, former vice-chancellor and principal of the then University of Durban-Westville, co-founder of the Black People’s Convention and ex Robben Island prisoner; Revabalan Cooper, a detainee for his student protest activities and who became a leading trade union leader; and Kumarasen Cooper, a respected professor of pathology.

She held a bachelor degree in English and history and worked as a teacher for a number of years.

When her children were young, she and her husband decided that in order to give them and the other children in the neighbourhood a proper education, they should build a school in New Germany.

It was called Cooper Government Aided Indian School.

Cooper was involved in several Tamil and temple organisations until her death.

Billy Ponnusamy, chairperson of the Shri Vaithianatha Easvarar Alayam, more commonly known as the Umgeni Road Temple, remembered Cooper as an icon for leadership who served on the temple committee board as a trustee for almost a decade.

“She was outspoken and her knowledge of the Hindu religion was welcomed at all temples and organisations she went to. She served as a trustee at the Umgeni Road temple, a position not many women filled. Many temples requested and demanded her visits and she had a way of providing insight into the religion and appealing to both young and older people.

“It was sad to see her memory leave her slowly in the past six years or so, because she had a great deal of knowledge and insight to impart to the community,” he said.

Cooper lived alone in an apartment in Umhlanga until her death and leaves behind her three sons.

Her funeral was delayed awaiting the return of her children from countries abroad.

The funeral is scheduled to take place at the Clare Estate Crematorium on Saturday, October 19.

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