Janice R Cooper

December 1, 1958 - January 13, 2023
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Marana Mortuary & Cemetery
Belinda Gorman Stefl
Bonnie Minderhout
Nicole Vicchiarelli
Bridget McEwen Light a candle


Janice (Jan) Elaine Rickert Cooper passed away at her home on 1/13/2023 at age 64. She was the daughter of Carroll and Mae Rickert. She grew up on the East coast, but had a heart for Arizona and found true contentment living in the desert and making a home outside of Tucson. She was a hard worker. She grew fruit trees, raised chickens, and cared for multiple rescue animals including dogs, donkeys and tortoises. She was a passionate supporter of multiple animal rescues including PIMA paws for life, RAD Rescue in AZ, and the Humane League in PA. She was a member of Sanctuary United Methodist Church.

Jan was the kind of human who was an avid learner simply for the sake of learning. She started learning about nature at an early age from her father, and as a child brought home injured animals to nurture back to health.  She naturally stepped into a zookeeper position at ZooAmerica in Hershey, PA, and eventually joined the team at the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.  At any moment, she could tell you anything about wolves, desert animals, rocks and minerals.  She could identify any snake (and catch it!) with confidence. She would happily share her knowledge about caring for dogs with anyone who asked, and she fostered numerous dogs over the years, many of which became part of her family.

Jan had a strong voice and a soft heart. She will be missed dearly by her family and friends. She is survived by her husband, Bruce Cooper, sister and brother-in-law, Nancy and Allen Bupp, daughter, Andrea Wheeler, two nieces, Megan Smith and Linell Patterson, and many beloved pets.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to your favorite animal rescue or charity.

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Timeline for Janice R Cooper

Born: December 1, 1958
Died: January 13, 2023

Condolences for Janice R Cooper

Marana Mortuary & Cemetery

Our sincere condolences.

The staff of Marana Mortuary & Cemetery.


Mary Powell-McConnell posted on 2/16/23

I was blessed to have Jan pass through my life at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I am sorry to hear of hear passing. My the knowledge of her many friends help lessen the grief. Mary Powell-McConnell


Stephanie Duncan posted on 2/15/23

Bruce, I am truly blessed to have known Jan. The conversations, lunches, dinners, movies and other activities we experienced together (like getting lost in a corn maze) will forever be treasured memories. I can only begin to imagine the grief you must be feeling. Please know that you can call upon me as your friend and lean on me for support.


Belinda Gorman Stefl posted on 2/2/23

Jam, You we’re always a best friend. You had such a love of animals. It has been 58 years we were friends. I will miss you so much. Prayers to heaven and I know we will meet again some day.


Bonnie Minderhout posted on 1/26/23

I met Jan way back in 1963 when we started 1st grade together in Milton, PA. Neither of us was quite yet 6 yrs. old, and we bonded immediately, as we found we were both avid animal lovers. We remained "besties" from grades 1 thru 12, and kept in touch over the years, even though I remained in PA. I will always remember how kind and gentle Jan was. She was simply one of the nicest people I have ever known. She also had a keen interest in learning as much as possible about animals and was always "rescuing" them. She quite naturally found her niche in zoo keeping, and it doesn't surprise me that she became an expert at capturing and relocating (thereby saving) venomous snakes. The world has lost a kind and wonderful soul. I will miss hearing from you my friend. My deepest condolences to Bruce, Nancy and all of her family and good friends.


Michael Kuntzelman posted on 1/21/23

Jan, you have been a role model, a great friend and neighbor and a joy filled treacher. I remember you rushing over oncewith Bruce in tow and full snake kit and happily capturing a mating pair of Mojave Rattlenakes all the wiile teaching us about the snakes and the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.& and acting like we were doing you a huge favor. It has been a great honor to get to be your friend..


Danitta Gilbert posted on 1/21/23

To everyone who loved Jan I send my deepest condolences. She was loved by many. Jan was a brilliant light in this world and it is a lesser place without her. I was proud to be her friend. Jan was brilliant and often people did not recognize this as she was humble and quiet. Her knowledge of animals and plants encyclopedic. Her Innate goodness and kindness will not end now but burn brightly in our hearts forever. I loved her. Mike loved her. We will miss her forever. Now to figure out a way to live in this world without her.


Melissa Conrad posted on 1/21/23

She was a naturalist at zoo America working with the wolves mainly. She was very skilled at her job often mentoring new workers. She was actually manager of the Sonoran Desert Museum and knew all creatures of the desert. She had no fear of snakes and actually rescued them from residences in the surrounding areas and rehomed them back to the desert. She was an avid animal advocate and fostered dogs after rescues. Her heart was huge for all animals also rescuing donkies and large turtles. She educated people about protecting wildlife and being better stewards of animal life. I was touched in a profound way with her animals advocacy and will donate to Dani Gilbert horse rescue. Please request her address from Facebook as noteworthy rescue located near Jan. A beautiful soul left a huge impact on this Earth.


Chris Rickert Mayo posted on 1/21/23

So sorry that I couldn’t get to AZ to reconnect with my cousin. Hope sweet memories will bless the family during this difficult time. Chris and Ron Mayo


Melissa Conrad posted on 1/21/23

Jan, my dear friend. I know you are in a better place with no pain and can visit with all your fur babies at the rainbow bridge. Your passing was such a shock and I'm still reeling from your loss. Thank you for the years of your friendship and advice. An absolute expert on everything, you answered every question I asked. I will miss you and treasure your friendship for as long as I live. You were always there for me and through tears, I write this condolence as your loss had been felt greatly by my heart. I wish I could talk to you again and say thank you for all the positive influence you had on my life. You were a very special person.


Angela Besemer posted on 1/20/23

I'm so sorry to hear of Jan's passing. I knew her through my daughter who worked with Jan at the Desert Museum. I was so thankful to Jan for always taking care of my daughter and helping her build confidence and maturity in her job. Jan was quick to help a friend with bobcat problems at a local rescue farm and I know Jan kept in touch with the rescue farm after the bobcat was redirected. Although I did not know Jan other than by acquaintance, I know she had a huge heart and cared deeply for animals and others. The night sky will be a little brighter with her star up there. ?


Barbara Ault posted on 1/20/23

We met at ISC in Lancaster, PA many, many years ago. We use to have so much fun. You liked to share your knowledge of animals with all. My daughter Sherry enjoyed all the times we went to Hershey's Zoo and you told her all about the animals. You will be missed


Shelby Brawley posted on 1/20/23

Jan and I "met" on the phone many years ago when we had predator problem here at Hoofsnhorns Farm sanctuary. She was a kind and generous wealth of information. Since then we adopted donkeys together, planned a surprise for our dear friends Dani & Mike and just stayed friends. She loved her family, friends and animal kids fiercely and was such a loving generous woman of faith. I am sad for our loss here on earth but for her I rejoice because I am confident that she is with Jesus and hopefully will keep an eye on us here until we see her again.♥️


Nicole Vicchiarelli posted on 1/20/23

I did not know you but I know your daughter andrea wheeler. My prayers go out to your family andrea wad really looking forward to finally meeting you in person


Bridget McEwen posted on 1/19/23

I'm going to miss you so much Jan. You taught me all about wolves, donkeys and so many more Arizona animals. I wish we had taken that trip to Oatman. I will miss chatting with you about life in general. I know Major and so many of your rescues will be meeting you at the rainbow bridge. I love you and am so glad we met through our love of dogs.