The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


May 7, 2013

Our View: Looking outside himself

Before he died, Cooper Vocelka was studying the philosophy of Dr. Seuss and told his father, Ron, about the Sneetches — the star-bellied and plain-bellied creatures who pay all their money to look like the other.

But Cooper, the 17-year-old who died Sunday after a four-year battle with two brain tumors, reminds us of another story by the beloved children’s author: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Among our favorite passages in that book are the “Except whens” — especially the first instance, which covers bang-ups and hang-ups, how they lead to a prickle-ly perch, being left in a Lurch and falling into a Slump.

“And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.

“Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

But it was for Cooper.

After surgery was unable to successfully remove a second brain tumor, he received a terminal diagnosis in October 2012. Instead of sitting back and awaiting his end, he looked outside of himself and made a difference for countless patients.

He started a fundraiser to buy presents for fellow patients at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Any tips he earned playing guitar would help buy the gifts.

When he couldn’t play guitar while recovering from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he shopped. When he couldn’t shop, others shopped for him.

He was recently chosen as an American Red Cross Everyday Hero and noted by Voices Against Brain Cancer for his positive outlook and forward-thinking energy.

Though “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” is usually given to high school graduates, Cooper already personified that book’s adventurous spirit. To paraphrase Seuss: He was one of the most brainy and footsy people we ever met.

Add “heartsy” to our list of Seussisms. When we asked him about his diagnosis in November, he considered himself lucky. “As bad as what I’m going through is, I know of kids who have the same thing, and it’s much more serious,” he said. “They are going through worse than what I’m going through.”

The Joplin High School graduate and National Honor Society member kept living during his death sentence. He was going places.

He escaped all that waiting and staying. He found the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping he rode high, ready for anything under the sky.

Ready, because he truly was that kind of guy.

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  • Other Views Other Views: Eroding court’s authority

    While Kansans were focused on the twists and turns of school finance this past week, lawmakers made an unnecessary and historic change in how the state’s district courts operate, coercively tying the reforms to badly needed funding.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Travesty

    What a travesty that a terrific young man from Spain is on the verge of deportation even though he has proven his worth in America (Globe, April 13).

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: Astonishing transformation

    The transformation of the Republican Party in the last decade is astonishing.

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  • Your View: The changing view

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    April 18, 2014

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    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Other Views Other Views: Funding for state’s roads

    Missouri is finding there is no good alternative to growing the economy, adding new well-paying jobs and expanding the tax base.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Geoff Caldwell, columnist: Government without apology or explanation

    Americans feel closest to their Uncle Sam at this time of year as he extends his hand for his “fair share” to fund his numerous endeavors.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Step aside

    The people of Joplin made it clear they wanted change at City Hall with their decisive votes to replace two council members.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Serious drawbacks

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) lays out clearly and persuasively the serious drawbacks with so-called right-to-work legislation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Free choice

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) regarding right-to-work seems to assume that if workers are given the choice of joining a union, they won’t join.

    April 16, 2014

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